Oscar Pistorius: From Superhuman To Brand Liability?

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VENTURES AFRICA – For many, it seemed unreal when Oscar Pistorius was charged for murder of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. It seemed like a scene out of an Oscar-deserving Hollywood movie- no pun intended. So far, Oscar Pistorius’ legal team have done a good job of providing him a defense that counters the prosecution’s claims but despite being granted bail, Oscar is still a long way from being a free man.

The worst-case scenario is a conviction and the maximum sentence applicable under the South African judicial structure while the best-case scenario is an acquittal and his ‘freedom’. Should Oscar get his wish and walk free, it will be the first of many battles he would have fought towards getting his life back as many questions will hover on the horizon. The Oscar Pistorius brand has been severely hit in such a way that ensures it will be a pyrrhic victory if he does get an acquittal. Already, some brands that had previously signed endorsement deals with the blade runner have either suspended or dropped him from campaigns and that could only be the beginning. As far as endorsement deals go, brands walk a fine line. These deals create exposure for such brands but unfortunately such exposure could be also negative- creating problems for athlete and brand. Most notably, Tiger Woods reportedly lost $22 million in the aftermath of his extra-marital affairs scandal.

In Oscar’s case, whether convicted or not, his involvement in a murder case will override whatever stellar sporting achievements or personal attributes he possesses and sadly so. Nike, who stood and still stand by Tiger Woods have announced that there will be no future Oscar Pistorius ad campaigns, Oakley have suspended Oscar’s contract while MNet and Thierry Mugler have also taken steps indicative of a desire to cut ties with Oscar. In Nigerian parlance, he will be seen as ‘bad market’. In marketing communications parlance, he will be seen as a brand liability.

Will he be able resume his career with questions of his innocence hanging in the air? It is hard to tell. One thing is for sure; his popularity – which was an essential part of his presence at various sports meets- has also taken a hit. Will event organisers be able to handle spectators’ reactions to Oscar’s presence? How will the negativity of a murder case be managed and be prevented from overshadowing the event itself? The questions abound. Financially, if Oscar’s involvement is these sports-meets diminish, so will his earnings from participating in such meets.

As an athlete, the avenues of income can dry up very quickly in two cases: upon retirement or when caught in a scandal. Oscar has gotten the short end of the straw because in his case, scandals do not come any worse.

 

 

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