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BRAND AMBASSADORS

Nike nightmare as it severs sponsorship connection with soccer star

By our News Team | 2022

Global sports brand ditches Manchester United and England player Mason Greenwood in the wake of his arrest.

It’s every marketing director and brand manager’s nightmare – when you find your brand ambassador making media headlines and trending on social media for all the wrong reasons.

International sports brand Nike has had to face this unpleasant reality over the past week, with news that one of its sponsored sports stars, Manchester United footballer Mason Greenwood, was arrested in connection with the alleged rape and assault of a woman, as well as on suspicion of sexual assault and making threats to kill.

After initially suspending its relationship with the player following his arrest, Nike confirmed yesterday (Monday) that it had now terminated the personal endorsement deal with the 20-year-old. In a statement released to the news media, the company said: “Mason Greenwood is no longer a Nike athlete”.

Brand Ambassadors

Mason Greenwood (left) during a Manchester United game in 2021. Photo by Ardfern via Wikimedia Commons

The company has a long history of sponsorship deals with sporting stars, among them basketballer Michael Jordan, golfer Rory McIlroy, disabled athlete Oscar Pistorius (prior to his murder conviction) and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Other sponsors also dealing with the fallout

Fallout over Greenwood, who also plays for the England national team, has impacted other sponsors too. 

Computer software brand TeamViewer, which is the Manchester United shirt sponsor, has said it is “in close contact” with the club over the situation. Sweet manufacturer Cadbury, an official partner of United, released a statement saying the player will not feature on any of its marketing initiatives going forward.

Manchester United has also stopped selling official Greenwood merchandise and fans who have bought his shirt can swap it at club shops free of charge. 

In a similar incident in Scotland recently, lower-league soccer club Raith Rovers lost its shirt sponsor and suffered huge community backlash when it signed David Goodwillie, a player ruled to be a rapist by a civil court. 

Raith subsequently apologised and said the club “got it wrong”. It added that Goodwillie would not be selected to play.

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