Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was in Edwards, Colorado from June 30 to July 2, 2003 undergoing knee surgery. After leaving Colorado a 19-year old college student accused Bryant of sexual assault at the lodge where she was employed, and where he had stayed. Bryant voluntarily surrendered to authorities and posted a $25,000 bail on July 4, but has denied the accusation. Now, Nike executives and account managers are left with a testing business decision to contemplate. What to do when the celebrity spokesperson a company executive hires undergoes a rapid and unexpected change of his image in the context of the modern media, because of circumstances beyond company control.
Nike has long been an American style icon of athletic wear and athletic shoes. Nike's clothing has come to represent a kind of American ideal of youthful, healthy living and determination. Nike's use of Michael Jordan as a celebrity promoter was extraordinarily successful in helping it branch out from its original base of running shoe customers into youth fashion as well as basketball lines of style. (Nike.com) To continue to promote these particular items with a new face, Nike hired the popular Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant in June of 2003, one week before the charges were pressed. Bryant seemed ideal because, unlike so many other professional athletes, Bryant was known for his modest, low-key style despite his team's extraordinary athletic success. Also unlike, for instance, Dennis Rodman, Bryant was in a happy, two-year marriage and had a child, rather than a failed marriage to Carmen Electra and a past history with Madonna. Bryant, until recently, seemed athletically talented and personally upstanding.
The allegations against Kobe Bryant are an account manager's worst nightmare. Managers work hard within the field of advertising to build up a compelling image for their brands, and to see their rising empire get thrown under such scrutiny puts an account planner at a bit of a crossroads.