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When sore losers have more to lose

Published: 
Friday, August 7, 2015
Dirt Under the Nails
Marlen Esparza, American female amateur boxer, who embodies the perfect image that CoverGirl wants.

It seems that Marlen Esparza, an American female amateur boxer, embodied the perfect image that her sponsor, CoverGirl, wants to project…a woman can be strong AND beautiful at the same time. Covergirl could have chosen any other female athlete, but they chose an athlete from a controversial sport regarding women’s involvement; a sport that defies the traditional role and image of women and challenges us to rethink the stereotypes. 

The image CoverGirl projects with their endorsement of Esparza is one that embodies this new era of female independence, strength and equality, while still maintaining feminine beauty. Clever. Esparza was interviewed after a split decision loss to a Canadian in the final of the Pan American Games female amateur boxing. Here are her words: “It was “BS!” 

There was nothing strategic. She’s not a good fighter, so I don’t know why they would give her (the decision.) I beat her five times, and I beat her the same way every time. “Just because I’m in Canada ... it was the whole reason I lost.” On international television she went on to say that she hated Canadians…and all this on Canadian soil! Now how’s that for a sore loser?

I was certain that CoverGirl would revoke their endorsement after that interview! After all, I would think that a strong, independent and feminine woman would be graceful even in a difficult loss. Surely, CoverGirl would insist that her actions did not match the image they intended to portray, and would harm their product.

Yet, from what I could find online, CoverGirl has said nothing about the incident. I am shocked by this, given the goal of a company when endorsing an athlete. Companies sponsor athletes for a number of reasons. The primary goal is to increase sales of their product. Athlete endorsement has been shown to influence customers’ purchasing decisions and ultimately boost sales. 

This occurs because fans of the athlete transfer their positive feelings and trust in the athlete to the product he/she represents. Fans also tend to associate the product with the athletic lifestyle, which they find appealing, and are more likely to purchase the endorsed product over similar merchandise.

In this way, companies stay a step above their competition. The more exclusive the athlete/endorser relationship, the greater the ability of the company to steer prospective customers away from the competition. The more famous the athlete, the more publicity and recognition the company will receive. 

However, athletes can also generate bad publicity for their sponsors based on their behaviour. Recently, there has been a plethora of revocation of monies and endorsements from some very popular athletes because of their ugly behaviour. These actions embarrass the sponsoring company and are usually in opposition to the image they want to project. Consequently, athletes lose their endorsements.

A very recent example is the Ray Rice incident, where the Baltimore Ravens running back was seen on video beating his fiance unconscious in an elevator. He lost the support of Vertimax, a sports equipment company, along with Nike and EA Sports. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Modell’s pulled his jerseys from their stores. He now has no remaining active endorsement deals.

Lance Armstrong is probably the most famous. He lost all endorsements from Nike, Anheuser—Busch, Trek Bicycle Corp, among many others, for participating in doping for years and lying and misleading his fellow racers and sponsors. Tiger Woods is another popular athlete who rightfully suffered because of his lack of self control and insatiable sexual appetite. 

He lost sponsorships from Gillette, Accenture, Gatorade, AT&T and Tag Heuer. Nike slashed their $20 million a year deal by half. His wife must be quite happy at such punishment. Indeed, Woods has never been the same. English footballer Wayne Rooney was allegedly accused of cheating on his pregnant wife with prostitutes. Coca-Cola’s executives said they were “disgusted” and pulled their endorsement.

Similarly, Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual assault in 2003, and he lost deals with MacDonalds and Ferrero SpA. Mike Tyson’s spiral into the depths of endorsement loss came after his former wife claimed that he abused her. He lost sponsors such as Eastman Kodak and Nintendo among others costing him $8-$10 million in a year.

Then there is Michael Phelps who lost the support of Kellogs after a picture emerged of him smoking a bong. So image is extremely important to companies who endorse athletes…or at least it should be. Asking an athlete to represent a company implies that the company approves of the athlete, that the athlete is a reflection of the morals and character of the company. 

So maybe CoverGirl is also a sore unsportsmanlike loser? That’s not strong and independent to me. “Easy, Breezy, Beautiful Sore Loser!”

•Carla Rauseo, DPT, CSCS, ATRIC is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Certified Aquatic Therapy Rehabilitation Instructor at Total Rehabilitation Centre in San Juan. http://www.totalrehabtt.com

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