Nike has terminated its sponsorship deal with Neymar over the negative consequences of a sexual assault allegation raised against the Brazilian star. The American sportswear house has announced the reasons that, in the summer of 2020, led it to part with the Paris Saint-Germain striker in advance: in 2011, the parties signed an agreement expiring in 2022, with total of 105 million dollars (over 86 million euros). An announcement that, at the time, took the whole sports world by surprise. It was from the time of Zico that the image man of the Brazilian national football team has been linked to the Oregon company: Romario, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, before Neymar, have all been Nike testimonials. Global brands are always on the hunt for icons to tie their brand to. They are willing to cover them with money, but on the other hand, any slightest deviation from corporate policies or events that could invalidate the combination involves the termination of the agreements and causes for compensation in the millions. Risks that do not always limit the “intemperance” of sports champions.
The Neymar case
The “mustache” has been on the green-gold game uniforms since 1996, a combination that at the media level has opened a path never trod before. The image of footballers changed radically with the first samba-beat Nike ads, starring Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and other Brazilian stars. Neymar has followed a real tradition, until last year, when he moved to Puma. Nike, through a statement, now explains the reasons for the divorce, declaring herself “deeply troubled by the allegations of sexual violence made by one of our employees against Neymar Jr”. The episode dates back to 2016 and was officially reported to the company in 2018 by the same person who accused the footballer, in a forum created by Nike “to offer a safe environment in which current and past employees can confidentially share their experiences. and worries “. In 2019, when a willingness to pursue the matter was expressed, Nike “commissioned an independent investigation and hired legal counsel for the employee, at its choice and at the company’s expense.” The investigation, as admitted by Nike itself, “was inconclusive”, as “a single series of facts did not emerge that would allow substantial intervention on the issue”. Despite this, “Nike terminated its relationship with the athlete because he refused to cooperate in a good faith investigation into credible allegations.”
It is not the first time that Nike has taken a stand in the face of scandals (real or alleged) in the world of sport. The best known case concerns the former cyclist Lance Armstrong, following the assessment of the use of doping practices that led to the cancellation of his palmares (seven Tour de France and a bronze in Sydney 2000, all victories revoked by the UCI and the IOC). In addition to Nike, which has also stopped sponsoring the Livestrong foundation, other sponsors have abandoned Armstrong: Trek, Easton-Bell Sports, 24-Hour Fitness, Anheuser-Busch, RadioShack, Oakley, Honey Stinger and FRS, for a total of 150 Millions of dollars. Nike also broke off relations with Oscar Pistorius after the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by the Paralympic athlete, who had a contract worth about 2 million dollars with the American company. Other cases related to Nike have seen the early breaking of agreements with the boxer Manny Pacquiao (for homophobic comments) and, only temporarily, with the tennis player Maria Sharapova (for doping), turning back in the latter situation. Nike also stayed by the golfer’s side Tiger Woods at the center of a sex scandal that led him to lose 22 million dollars (almost 20 million euros) in sponsorships.
The Rooney and Ronaldinho cases
In the world of football, before Neymar, it was the Englishman’s turn Wayne Rooney deal with the loss of sponsors. In his case, however, the accusations were of treason against his wife, dating back to 2010. A story that cost about 600 thousand pounds (about 700 thousand euros), or what is foreseen by the agreement with Coca Cola, which initially removed the star of Manchester United from their advertisements (while maintaining the contractual relationship), after which he discharged him as a result of unsportsmanlike behavior on the field, in reference to a two-day disqualification remedied after a hat-trick in the derby with Manchester City, celebrated in a judged way too much vulgar from the FA. Furthermore, in 2012 Coca Cola completely closed relations with Ronaldinho, testimonial worth 600 thousand euros per year: during the presentation at Atletico Mineiro, on his table there were two cans of Pepsi, sponsor of his new club. That was enough to cut ties with the Brazilian.