With conversations about Boston's beloved David 'Big Papi'? Ortiz still swirling around the office, I was surprisingly unsurprised when I recently received an email with a stat that '20% of kids aged 8-14 know other children who regularly cheat at sports'? (source: SI Kids and C&R Research). While I do truly believe that Papi was a victim of a supplement induced false positive (and as a Red Sox fan I'll stand by that), it seems that we're culturally beginning to shrug off cheating as just another part of the game.
Putting on my marketing hat, I've started to wonder, Is it fair to expect brands to drop their athlete endorsements because of an accusation, or even admittance, of cheating? I like Papi as one of the faces of Reebok/Glaceau/XM Radio not because he hits lots of homeruns, but because he's charismatic, funny and personable. Even if 'roids use rises to the surface, is it fair to penalize him now for something that wasn't even banned when it may have happened?
Personally, I'm torn. As a weekend athlete and a former little league coach, I want to believe in good sportsmanship and fairness ' the best players and teams win because they're naturally the most talented, or have the most heart. But, it's also easy for me to compare my favorite superstars' actions to the brands they represent. In the dog-eat-dog world of these brands competing for consumers' hearts and retailers' shelf space, a leg up on the competition is almost always viewed as a good thing.
So let me pose a question: What qualifies as a Performance Enhancing Drug in the world of marketing? And, if it guaranteed more customers and larger profits, would you take it?