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lg_sprite_lebron_james_4Professional athletes have endorsement deals with an array of companies. These include restaurants, shoe brands and credit cards. Companies have used athletes to promote their products and services for over 100 years.

Athletes endorse products and services in a variety of ways. These include TV commercials, print advertisements and Web site endorsements. Athletes may also wear products or use services when they are participating in their sport and when they are in public.

Most people know that Michael Jordan endorses Nike and that Tiger Woods endorses GatoradeAccording to recent studies, consumers are more likely to purchase products and use services endorsed by athletes than products and services that are not endorsed. Kids around the world feel like they can be “just like Mike” when they wear a pair of Air Jordan’s. If I want to buy a sports drink, I may buy Gatorade because the company sticks out in my head. I’ve seen Gatorade commercials with Tiger Woods, so the product must be good. People tend to believe star athletes.

So, what would you think if you saw or heard about Michael Jordan wearing a pair of Adidas? What about Tiger Woods drinking Powerade? Darren Rovell at Sports Biz calls this endorsement fraud. Endorsement fraud is when athletes get paid to endorse one product or service but are caught using the competitor.

Athletes can obviously eat whatever they want and wear whatever they want, but they need to be careful when they endorse a product. By signing a contract, they are obligated to that brand. Athletes are in the public eye whenever they step outside their homes. Technology has also made it possible for people to publish pictures or videos of athletes online.

Brian Gainor gives an example of Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard, who endorses McDonald’s. Howard is featured in the new Monopoly game commercials for McDonald’s. While in Beijing, playing on the Olympic basketball team, Howard was videotaped eating Wendy’s with his teammates. McDonald’s paid $4 million to be the official sponsor of Team USA Basketball for the 2008 Olympic Games. It seems strange that the team would eat Wendy’s for a team meal.

People trust athletes and hope that they are being truthful when they promote a product. Will people listen to Howard and eat at McDonald’s if they see him eating at Wendy’s? Isn’t that a bit contradicting?  

Here’s the video: http://hoopsoup.com/2008/11/03/reedem-team-meal-of-champions/

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