Nike has been caught in yet another sponsorship scandal, this time involving Brad Walker, the US record-holder for the pole vault.
Walker reported via his Facebook page that Nike have ended his sponsorship contract, which he describes, “would allow me to purchase about a used 2008 Prius”. This news comes just a week after he placed 4th at the World Championships in Moscow.
Nike has shown that it has no qualms about ending sponsorships mid-contract, often simultaneously thrusting both itself and the reported ‘behavior’ of its sponsorees under the media magnifying glass.
Nike, who has provided Walker’s sports apparel and footwear since 2006, dropped his contract after the 5-time world champion taped over the famous ‘swoosh’ logo on his shoes during a heat in Moscow.
Walker states, “I received an email from my manager stating that the man in charge was absolutely furious with me…[he] frankly said, “We no longer want Brad, tell him to look elsewhere.” And there you have it.”
Brad Walker hit back with the explanation that the Nike ‘PV lights’ had come loose during a run-up and said he had spent months complaining to his sponsor that the Velcro used to strap them up is poor quality.
Nike’s sponsorship deal scandals do little for its corporate reputation, somewhat permanently linked to the evidence of its sweatshop use revealed in 2001 and again in 2005. Sponsorship issues in recent years involving athletes like Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods and Oscar Pistorius have rocked the international giant through no fault of its own.
However the lasting external communication legacy may lie in how Nike deals with the recovery and rebuild process.
By way of public response, Walker is liquidating his huge collection of Nike products, including training shoes, pole vault spikes and clothes. The first item to go to auction on eBay.com made a bold statement about Walker’s commitment to this claim, his ‘London 2012 Olympic Medal Stand Jacket’ was selling for around $500 on Tuesday afternoon.