Ravens running back Ray Rice has landed endorsements like M&T Bank and nutritional supplements like Ripfire Xcelerate and BodyArmor SuperDrink. He has also taken action against bullying through his “Ray of Hope” campaign.
But after Rice and his fiancée, Janay Palmer, were arrested Saturday morning, will the Rice-endorsed brands and cause be affected?
Auburn Bell, a marketing professor at Loyola College of Maryland and director in corporate marketing at Legg Mason, said it’s unlikely that any of the endorsed companies would immediately cut the cord with Rice. However, he said, it is possible that those scouting Rice for potential endorsements might pull away.
And the running back’s anti-bullying campaign? Well, that might actually benefit his case.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a credibility factor because he’s got some tenure in that work,” said Bell. “There will probably be some immediate backlash … but I think ultimately what he’s done there over the past couple of years is going to help him rather than hurt him.”
But it all depends on how the facts continue to unfold.
If it turns out to be a minor event or misunderstanding of events, he said, the whole thing could blow over in a matter of days.
But there have also been instances where the opposite occurred and scandal grew, leading sponsored brands to withdraw. Athletes like Tiger Woods and Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez, for example, both lost big endorsements in recent years.
“I would go back and point to how the Tiger Woods thing evolved,” said Bell. “It started out as a minor altercation. It evolved into something way beyond what someone would have envisioned.”