Drugs in Sports: Not only Hurts the Body, But the Brand

by Ryan Gaviria, http://www.neo-vox.org, May 14, 2009

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Marijuana and steroids affect the body differently, but tend to have the same side effects to the person's image. The public might be bedazzled by the large amounts of money professional players' rake in every year from salaries, but what they don't see is the even larger amounts of money they rake in from the endorsements. Once players become successful, they not only represent an investment for the team they play for, but an investment to the company that wants to sponsor them. As long as a player maintains the right image, they will attract consumers and bring in money for the company that endorses them. But with all this money companies are feeding athletes comes an absurd amount of pressure to maintain successful performance and keep a clean record.

Now, don't get me wrong, there is a big difference between Michael Phelps's recent bong hit did and what Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds did. It is unfair for athletes, like Phelps, to have their image tainted when they are caught abusing alcohol or using marijuana, because the publicity is part of this new lifestyle that "comes with the territory". They were given an extraordinary gift, this athletic ability that will not easily be matched, and they can no longer live the lifestyle they had before they reached celebrity status, while their peers still enjoy the simple life. Now they have to become role models and have to worry about who is taking their picture in the nearby bush. It's a hard life to be thrown into and million dollar endorsements do not help. Sadly, in the end, the athletes who are caught smoking marijuana and the athletes using steroids are equally going to be impacted by the situations they are in.

Michael Phelps and Joba Chamberlain are both sensational athletes who are young and a lot of children look up to them because the public can relate to younger talent. Let's face facts. They are human and like to enjoy the same luxuries their friends are enjoying, in a stress-free, college life. The only exception is when they get pulled over by the cops for drunk driving; they do not get pulled over in their mother's 1992 Toyota Camry. No, he gets pulled over in their brand new Land Rover that was paid for by their sponsors with two cars following him trying to take his picture. With their first strike, it can be branded as an honest mistake - the public and the sponsors move on.

With their second strike, sponsors take a look at their "investment" and see if they are sending the right message to their target audience. When Michael Phelps was seen taking a hit from a bong, Kellogg - a cereal and snack maker based in Michigan - decided that is not what they wanted their target market to relate to. It does make sense, because they don't want the people they sell to, mostly children, to think Kellogg supports smoking marijuana. Subway, the sandwich chain store, "...said it is likely to backburner its first TV campaign with Mr. Phelps, initially set to break early this year" (York). If athletes get a third strike they will most likely lose even more endorsements because they will be considered too risky. Some people can live the life of a role model every day because they are aware of the constant cameras just waiting for a slip up. Tiger Woods and LeBron James, both received enormous deals from Nike (LeBron's is worth more than 90 million dollars!) and have maintained the role of being an inspiration to the younger generation (Collins). Others let their guard down, have fun with friends and forget there are people at that party who would rather make a couple of bucks with an incriminating photograph rather than enjoy the fact they are with a twelve-time gold medalist. It's hard living the lifestyle of a brand and can become overwhelming to the point where the slightest act can affect current and potential endorsements.

Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez are a different story. They are on a zero-tolerance type ball field (as well as they should be), because the drugs they took affect the actual performance of the players, which corrupts the image of the sport. Nobody wants that. Not the public, not the sport, and not even the government. When Bonds was accused of using steroids, MasterCard pulled out of their contract. MasterCard was planning on airing an ad associated with Barry Bonds breaking Hank Aaron's all-time homerun record (Duncan). Bloomberg calculated that Bonds lost ten million dollars a year in potential endorsements (Gaffney). Now with the current steroid scandal Alex Rodriguez is looking to lose 50% of his endorsement deals. Technically, he has only made deals with Nike and Pepsi (Pepsi is not renewing is contract when it expires), but a lot of companies that were looking to endorse him have shied away. Before Rodriguez admitted using steroids, it was well known that he would receive numerous endorsement offers as he was approaching the tainted home-run record, but now it is not looking like such a sure thing (Feinsand).

While woman athletes do not receive as much attention as male athletes, they too resort to steroids to be the best. Remember Marion Jones? Think a little, it will come back to you soon. She was an Olympic gold medalist track runner and jumper (three gold medals and two bronzes to be precise) that brought honor to her country. Well, until it became public that she used anabolic steroids, and then not only did she lose her five medals and six months of freedom, but she also lost seven endorsements (Nike, Gatorade, GMC, Panasonic, AT&T, Tag-Heuer, and Kellogg). She is now in prison and nearly bankrupt (Lefton).

Drugs in sports have not only affected players in endorsements, but also the companies, who are not only subject to lose money, but have lost a great amount of trust with their athletes. The companies cannot be sure that the athlete they endorse is going to be clean for the ten years they agreed to work with him/her. "Moral clauses are also being written into more and more contracts so the company can get itself out of a deal should the [athlete] get into trouble" (Duncan).

The young, natural, talented athletes that still bring honor to their sports have to understand they cannot live their old lifestyle. The public understands they enjoy spending time with the people they knew before they became rich and famous, but acting irresponsible is unacceptable if they want to maintain their million dollar endorsements. The only advice anyone can give those athletes is to try and be a positive influence. It might be helpful to see what Tiger Woods, LeBron James, and LaDainian Tomlinson have done to stay out of trouble. For the steroid users (it has come to that point that there are too many to name), it's a lot of pressure to be that good - if they ever were that good - and stay that good. Steroid users not only upset the companies who have realized the millions they have just spent on those players has been wasted, but upset the future athletes of the world who now think a person cannot become that good without "juicing up." The only advice anyone can give those athletes is...stop!


Work Cited

Collins, Dan. "LeBron James Hits $90M Jackpot." CBS News 22 May 2003 18 Feb 2009 http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/05/22/national/main555131.shtml.

Duncan, Apryl. "Steroid Scandal Could Affect Endorsement Deals." About.com 14 Dec 2004 18 Feb 2009 http://advertising.about.com/od/celebrityendorsements/a/steroidscandal.htm.

Feinsand, Mark. "Alex Rodriguez could take hit on any ad deals." Daily News 09 Feb 2009 18 Feb 2009 http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/2009/02/08/2009-02-08_alex_rodriguez_could_take_hit_on_any_ad_.html.

Gaffney, Gary. "Bloomberg estimates Bonds loses $10 million/year in endorsements." Steroid Nation
01 Jun 2007 18 Feb 2009 http://grg51.typepad.com/steroid_nation/2007/06/bloomberg_estim.html.

Lefton, Terry. "She's Got a Jones for TV." BNET 5 Jun 2000 18 Feb 2009 http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0BDW/is_23_41/ai_62918963.

York, Emily Bryson. "Phelps Brand, Endorsements Take a Hit." Advertising Age 9 Feb 2009 18 Feb 2009 http://adage.com/article?article_id=134425.

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