Similarly it stuck by the Los Angeles Lakers player Bryant in 2003 after he was arrested on sexual assault charges that were later dropped. Nike, however, didn’t use the basketball player in advertising again until 2005.
In the case of Vick, Nike signed the NFL quarterback to a contract during his rookie year in 2001, but ended that pact in August 2007 after he filed a plea agreement admitting his involvement in a dogfighting ring. Then the company re-signed Vick, who now plays with the Philadelphia Eagles, in July 2011. Nike said at that time that it didn’t condone Vick’s actions, but was supportive of the positive changes he had made to better himself off the field.
In the latest incident, Nike on Wednesday said that it would end its relationship with Armstrong, a week after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a massive report that detailed allegations of widespread doping by Armstrong and his teams when he won the Tour de France seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005.
The move by Nike followed Armstrong’s decision earlier on Wednesday to step down as chairman of the Livestrong cancer-fighting organization he founded. Armstrong, a 41-year-old who earlier in his career had overcome life-threatening testicular cancer, retired from cycling a year ago and announced in August that he would no longer fight the doping allegations that have dogged him for years.
Other companies quickly followed Nike. The beer company Anheuser-Busch, health-club operator 24 Hour Fitness, bike manufacturer Trek Bicycle and athletic products maker Honey Stinger all dropped Armstrong. Meanwhile, Oakley, a sunglass maker, said it would withhold judgment until the International Cycling Union decides whether to challenge the USADA’s findings.
Steve Rosner, partner at sports marketing firm 16W Marketing in East Rutherford, N.J., estimates that Armstrong could have lost as much as $30 million in present and future endorsement deals, goodwill ambassador relationships and corporate speaking gigs.
Nike declined to comment on its endorsement deal with Armstrong or why it ended the relationship other than to say in a statement it released on Wednesday that it made its decision based on ‘‘seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade.’’
Marketing experts said the likely reason Nike dropped Armstrong boils down to the fact that the cyclist’s alleged actions directly related to his sport.
‘‘Nike is about ‘just doing it’ and that doesn’t mean drugs,’’ said Atlanta-based marketing consultant Laura Ries. ‘‘It means hard work and ethics. And this flew in the face of it.’’