Oscar Pistorius was a man once known for being the fastest double-leg amputee on the planet. Now that the so-called Blade Runner has been charged with murder for the shooting death of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp early Valentine’s Day morning, his sponsors, who pay out about $2 million to Pistorius annually, are moving just as quickly as Pistorius to figure out how to deal with the sudden PR nightmare.
Nike’s attachment to Pistorius was compounded by the fact that an ad featuring the Olympian used the tagline, “I’m the bullet in the chamber.” It was pulled from Pistorius’s website on Thursday, Ad Age reports. The victim’s tweets before her murder also created a social media nightmare for anyone or any company attached to the paralympic athlete.
“Nike extends its deepest sympathy and condolences to all families concerned following this tragic incident,” his sponsor said in a statement. “As it is a police matter, Nike will not comment further at this time.” Two other sponsors, Oakley and BP Global, both used the word “shocked” in their statements on the issue. Thierry Mugler fragrances had nothing to say other than it was waiting to see what happens with the investigation.
British Telecom, better known as BT, also went the “appalled” route with its statement: “Our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy. Given the ongoing legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”[more]
BT is actually in the odd position, as just having a Pistorius ad campaign entitled “Ambassador” short-listed for a Sport Industry Award for “Best Sponsorship of a Sport Team or Individual,” the Express notes.
None of the sponsors immediately dumped Pistorius, as Oakley and Nike recently did with disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, but the next steps in the investigation along with public sentiment will likely be the deciding factor on whether Pistorius can continue to bring in the marketing buckage. After all, Nike has had a few disgraced athletes, such as Tiger Woods, that it stuck with.
As it is now, billboards featuring Pistorius are getting yanked down all over his homeland of South Africa, the Los Angeles Times reports. “There has been no word as to who ordered the billboards to be removed,” the paper notes.
Some of those likely belong to South African pay TV channel M-Net Movies, which featured television ads and billboards that had images of Pistorius holding a replica Oscar award and the tagline “Every Night Is Oscar Night.” The company this week tweeted:
Out of respect & sympathy to the bereaved, M-Net will be pulling its entire Oscar campaign featuring Oscar Pistorius with immediate effect.
— M-Net Movies (@mnetmovies) February 14, 2013