Five more sponsorship deals that went wrong

Paige Burt - 14th April 2023

Sponsorship deals can be a great way to build brand awareness and reach new audiences. However, when things go wrong, they can quickly turn into a PR nightmare.

Keeping in mind our popular Five Sponsorship Deals That Went Wrong, we thought it deserved a little refresh. Here are five more examples of sponsorship deals that ended badly: 

1. Gillette and Tiger Woods

Gillette famously dropped Tiger Woods as a sponsor in 2010 after his extramarital affairs were exposed.

Woods had been the face of the brand’s “The Best a Man Can Get” campaign for years, but the scandal made it difficult for Gillette to continue the partnership. The move cost Woods an estimated $12 million a year in endorsement fees.

2. Pepsi and Kendall Jenner

In 2017, Pepsi released an advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner that received backlash and was ultimately pulled. The ad showed Jenner leaving a photo shoot to join a protest, and she hands a can of Pepsi to a police officer as a peace offering, seemingly solving the issue.

Critics accused the ad of trivialising the Black Lives Matter movement and using social justice issues to sell soda. Pepsi apologised and pulled the ad, but not before facing widespread criticism and damage to their brand reputation. 

3. FIFA and World Cup Sponsors

Sponsorship deals with FIFA can be a double-edged sword. While they offer brands the chance to reach a global audience during the World Cup, they can also put them in a tough spot if FIFA’s reputation takes a hit.

In 2015, several major sponsors, including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Visa, called on FIFA to clean up its act after a corruption scandal rocked the organisation. Some even threatened to pull their sponsorship deals if FIFA did not take action. 

4. H&M and The Weeknd

H&M faced backlash in 2018 after featuring a black child in a hoodie with the words “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” written on it. The clothing retailer had partnered with The Weeknd on a clothing line, but the singer took to Twitter to announce that he was cutting ties with the brand.

He said he was “deeply offended” by the ad and would not work with H&M again. 

5. Peloton and Ryan Reynolds 

Sometimes controversy can be used to the advantage of a brand effectively. Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin brand crafted a response advertisement that cleverly featured the same actress from the original Peloton commercial.

The Peloton ad had sparked controversy due to its perceived portrayal of a husband gifting his wife a Peloton bike, which some viewers interpreted as insensitive or promoting an unhealthy body image. By incorporating the same actress in the Aviation Gin ad, Reynolds’ team tapped into the ongoing conversation, while shifting the context to promote their product in a light-hearted and self-aware manner.

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