Kellogg drops Phelps after photos
We won’t be tempted by puns. Or any sort of lame wordplay. We’ll play this straight. Seriously. Here goes: After all the bad publicity caused by a photo of Michael Phelps apparently taking a bong hit, Kellogg has decided to dump the superswimmer.
Okay, now that’s out of the way. Here’s the basics from Reuters:
The world’s largest cereal maker said on Thursday it would not extend a contract with Phelps, who charmed audiences in Beijing last year with a record-breaking, eight-gold medal haul, saying the photo of the swimmer was inconsistent with its public image.
Phelps, estimated to make millions of dollars annually from marketing deals, issued an apology this week after a British newspaper published a photograph purportedly showing him smoking marijuana during a student party at the University of South Carolina in November.
The move doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Marketers often get nervous about this sort of thing, especially when forking out big bucks in this economy. Phelps has other deals worth millions of dollars with brands including Speedo swimwear, Omega watches, Visa Inc, Subway sandwiches and Hilton Hotels. Phelps’s agency, Octagon, said earlier this week that it had been in touch with his sponsors and that none had indicated any intention of backing out of their deals.
What changed? What’s the deal with Kellogg? The difference? One marketing executive tells AdWeek that it’s all about the kids.
Kevin Adler, founder of Engage Marketing, a sports-marketing firm in Chicago, said Kellogg’s decision comes as no surprise. While others may not have gone public in their stance towards Phelps, it’s imperative that Kellogg do so because after all, the cereal maker is heavily perceived (as) a kids’ brand, he said.
“Athletes are brands. That’s the most important umbrella concept we have to understand is if you do something that runs contrary to your brand image, it will affect your ability to monetize that brand image. It really kind of is that simple,” said Adler.
Over at Gawker, they had a slightly different take.
Kellogg, in the most boneheaded move in the entire history of all celebrity endorsements ever, is dumping Michael Phelps over his pot photo. Has any brand ever been more out of touch with its customers?… Hello? This is the best possible recommendation one can make for breakfast cereal, the favored foodstuff of THC-induced munchies victims everywhere.”
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