“T-Mobile is to end sponsorship of its cycling team after a succession of doping scandals.
“Britons Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins now look set to ride for the rebranded Team High Road.
“”We came to this decision to separate our brand from further exposure from doping in sport,” said T-Mobile chief executive Hamid Akhavan.”
It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned my cycling — still my favorite spectator sport — but I note the end of the T-Mobile sponsorship in the context of marketing sponsorship risk, something that a brand needs to weigh when selecting a celebrity spokesman, sports star, or team to affiliate its name with.
Cycling’s massive decline — capped by the stripping of Floyd Landis’ Tour de France title from 2006, then sealed with the messy excuse of a race last summer, is a Greek tragedy on wheels. Add to that Marion Jones having her Olympic medals stripped, and then Barry Bonds indictment and it is astonishing to the extent to which sports — professional and amateur — has hit the skids thanks to doping and betting scandals.
So T-Mobile walks away from a team beset by scandal. The Discovery Channel walked away from its sponsorship of the team that carried Lance Armstrong to his astonishing feat.
Yet still we watch and still we cheer, but as marketers we need to guard against the splatter and blowback of a sponsorship gone tabloid.