Strange Sponsorship Deals in Sports Marketing

Success is everything in the world of professional sports, and this is the reason lucrative sponsorship deals are highly sought after. Marketing professionals are often careful when they evaluate potential sponsorship deals; there must be a connection between the teams or individual athletes and their audiences, who must be respected not only as consumers but also as fans.

For the most part, sponsorship ventures are highly relatable and make sense; for example, the agreement between Washington Spirit and inride, which was announced in July 2019, makes perfect sense because fans of this professional women’s soccer club often have to drive to the Maryland SoccerPlex, and they may want to arrive on different cars from one match to the other. You can say the same about Nike’s numerous sponsorship deals with professional athletes because they end up wearing Nike shoes and sporting apparel. In some cases, however, sponsorship agreements are downright bizarre, and they don’t work out as marketing professionals expected. Here are some strange marketing arrangements:

Andy Cole and Pepsi Max

When British striker Andy Cole began his professional football career with the Arsenal of the English Premier League, he was loaned out to Fulham and Bristol City, where he scored a modest amount of goals. By the time he signed with Newcastle United in 1993, he became a goal scoring machine; in 55 matches, he scored 70 times, and this is when Pepsi Max came calling. While there is nothing out of the ordinary with soft drink sponsorships in professional sports, Pepsi Max decided to publish a few magazine advertisements that inexplicably showed Cole carrying an AK-47 assault rifle on a bridge over the Tyne River. To make things worse, Cole looked very uncomfortable during the photo session, which also happened to include a missile launcher prop.

Viagra and NASCAR

Retired racing legend Mark Martin was born in 1959, and he was already a NASCAR veteran when Viagra pitched him for a sponsorship, but he was only 40 years old at the time. Luckily for the erectile dysfunction medication brand, Martin continued racing until the age of 54, and then he started coaching and developing other racers while still sporting the Viagra logo on his racing suit. In interviews, Martin has never mentioned taking Viagra, but he has stated that he would do so should he need to.

Brylcreem and David Beckham

This sponsorship deal worked wonders in the beginning, at least when the legendary British football player David Beckham had stylish blonde hair that he carefully styled before every match. The problem is that there was no contractual clause related to Beckham’s hair, which he decided to shave off in 1999 despite not showing any signs of male pattern baldness; he just wanted to sport a shaved head because many of his teammates had already done so. Unfortunately, when it came time to renew the sponsorship deal, Beckham’s hair had marginally grown back, thus prompting Brylcreem to terminate an agreement worth millions of dollars.