...and apparel and equipment and a lifestyle.
It's the last part that seems a little off when we think about--or when Christine Brennan makes us think about--Nike continuing to sponsor Tiger Woods, Ben Roethlisberger, and Kobe Bryant. Sure "image is everything" is Canon's slogan. (Of course it was famously spoken by one-time Nike client, Andre Agassi.) But clearly, as Brennan points out in a very good column* (and sometimes I think Brennan is a little too easy on certain aspects of sportocracy so I was pleased by this one) Nike does not think it's image will be harmed by continuing to be associated with these men. Conversely, Nike also sponsors out US soccer player Natasha Kai, so I guess their devotion to their stars cuts in many different directions.
Former Women's Sport Foundation CEO Donna Lopiano felt that Nike's refusal to admonish their athletes sends a clear message to consumers about the image of the company (macho, edgy--Kai certainly fits the latter and maybe even the former which is also exemplified by US soccer star Abby Wambach--not as out as Kai, but definitely has that macho, bravado thing going on. And we could enter into an interesting discussion of how female macho might challenge the Nike rhetoric here--but we'll just let those thoughts percolate for now.)
Brennan ends with a quote from Lopiano about how these decisions by Nike regarding their misbehaving athletes sends a message about the ethics of the company as established by its leadership. Here's what else it says: Nike is kind of untouchable. Other companies have pulled out when celeb spokespeople behave badly. But Nike, which certainly must have some kind of cost-benefit analysis team, clearly doesn't see it as a risk. This is company whose practices and ethics have received almost (maybe even more?) attention in print, in film, and on television as the evil empire Walmart. But so few are phased. Which leads to my second point: it says something about American culture, and the global culture of which Nike is a part, that we don't punish Nike for their misdeeds and those of their representatives. You can be outraged by Nike and what they do and say, but look down at your feet, or the logo on your chest, (as I will this afternoon when I teach spin with my Nike cycle shoes and tank top) and think about the consumer's role in all this.
* from over a week ago. So it's old news. But still important to discuss, I think, especially with Woods and Roethlisberger starting to enter the everything's back to normal zone.