Chris Moerdyk

Would you put your money on Oscar?

2013-02-18 08:28

Chris Moerdyk

I am not sure whether I admire Nike for their bravery or for their obviously very deep pockets.

On the day of the Oscar Pistorius/Reeva Steenkamp tragedy last week, Nike very quickly issued a statement of support for Pistorius who is one of the many international sporting celebrities that they sponsor.

Meanwhile, all sorts of other companies that were featuring him on billboards and advertisements were pulling stuff out of public view faster than Oscar could run the 100 metres.

The thing about sponsoring celebrities is that it is becoming more and more dangerous as highly paid sportsmen and popstars get so rich and so headstrong that they start believing that they are invincible.

Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Hansie Cronje, the list goes on and on and on.

Certainly, the Tiger Woods brand suffered for a while but it seems to be coming back again. It will probably never reach the heady heights of the days when Woods was assumed to be a good 'n clean and fresh sort of fellow.

'Where there's smoke'

And if a brand does its sponsorship properly and ensures that those it sponsors attend all its events and functions, then in this day and age an enormous number of people have no problem rubbing shoulders with a notorious celebrity.

But then again, Tiger Woods just couldn't control his willy and Lance Armstrong was just a cheat. Neither of them actually killed anyone.

Of course, one has to wait until Pistorius goes through the legal process before condemning him, but the trouble is when it comes to a personal brand image, the "where there's smoke there's fire" perception kicks in.

Even the fact that there were reports of previous "disturbances" at his home and that he surrounded himself with guns, is probably enough to impact on his brand reputation whether or not he is found guilty of murder.

But, to get back to Nike. I really have to wonder whether they issued a bit of a knee-jerk statement without too much thought?

It also makes me wonder about the return on investment of sponsoring sports celebrities, given the increasing risk today that so many of them are bound to do something really silly.

Sponsorship costs a lot of money and it's quite difficult to calculate an accurate return on investment.

Is it worth the risk, I wonder? In the past few years both Absa and Standard Bank have withdrawn from major sport sponsorships purely on the basis that they simply did not believe they were getting anything like a decent return on their substantial investments.

When I was working at BMW we fortunately turned down an offer to sponsor Hansie Cronje but years before that we did sponsor a very well-known Springbok cricketer (They weren't called Proteas then ) by giving him a car.

Careful consideration

Then someone overheard him telling a mate in the Wanderer's Club bar that even though he was sponsored by BMW and drove one of their cars, he actually preferred his Mercedes. Ouch!

Having said that, a lot of sportsmen who receive sponsorships are very good when it comes to getting involved in their sponsors' events and so forth.

But there are still far too many who just treat their sponsorship as some sort of entitlement.

I think it is going to be very interesting to see just how long Nike will support Oscar. Will they stick it out to the end of the trial? Who knows?

What I do know is that getting involved in sponsorship requires a lot of careful consideration and thought. As well as a lot of money. And to get value for money, whoever it is that you are sponsoring has to do a lot more than just wear your name on his shirt.

- Follow Chris on Twitter.

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Read more on:    reeva steenkamp  |  oscar pistorius
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