|Chad Johnson's endorsements OK for now|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 10 May 2008 05:53|
The high-profile receiver is threatening to sit out the season if the Bengals don't trade him. The Bengals have refused and called his bluff, telling him to go ahead and stay away if that's how he feels.
Sitting out would cost Johnson his $3 million salary for 2008. It also would force advertisers to scramble.
``He's a football player,'' said Kevin George, vice president and general manager for Unilever's deodorant division. ``We want him playing football. He gets more coverage when he's on the field.''
Lately, most of the coverage has revolved around his unhappiness in Cincinnati and his insistence that he won't play for the Bengals despite his lucrative contract through 2010. Johnson feels he's been unfairly blamed as a factor in a 7-9 finish last season.
The 30-year-old receiver has deals with Unilever's Degree Men deodorant, Go Daddy and Reebok, among others. So far, none has expressed unhappiness over his unsettled situation.
``In everybody's careers, there's going to be issues that come up,'' said Robert Bailey, marketing director for Rosenhaus Sports, which represents Johnson. ``This is an issue between him and his employer. It hasn't had an effect on his endorsements.''
One of his most high-profile deals involves Degree, which sponsors his ``Who Covered No. 85'' weekly checklist. Fans can go online and vote on whether opponents did a good job covering Johnson each week.
If he's not playing, there can be no checklist. Some other promotion will have to take its place.
Unilever likes Johnson's image as an out-front, risk-taking player. The impasse between player and team hasn't changed the company's opinion of him.
``We love Chad and we continue to use Chad because he embodies everything the brand is about,'' George said. ``It's a high-performance product, so it works well. It's for men who take risks. That's what the brand is about.''
Bailey points out that Johnson hasn't been on a police blotter, which is a plus. Eleven Bengals players have been arrested in the last two years, with three of them - linebacker Odell Thurman, receiver Chris Henry and cornerback Johnathan Joseph - receiving suspensions from the NFL for misconduct.
``He's a guy who doesn't get in trouble off the field,'' Bailey said. ``You don't see him involved in criminal cases.''
Even though his endorsements are safe for now, Johnson likely has harmed his image with other companies, said David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California.
Many corporations are wary of linking up with athletes who are unpredictable. Johnson's recent actions will limit the number of companies who would be interested in using him to pitch their products, Carter said.
``By positioning himself as a self-absorbed, me-first athlete, he has harmed himself in a sports marketing world where corporations' tolerance for such behavior has faded fast over the last several years,'' Carter said.
Although many factors figure in a player's endorsements, Johnson's behavior from here on out will have a big impact.
``Fans really forgive and forget,'' Carter said. ``To the extent that they're willing to give him a pass on that, and he gets back in uniform and plays well and the team collectively stays out of trouble, I think it will open opportunities for him.''