In court, Oscar Pistorius remains innocent until proven guilty, but in the world of corporate branding the Olympic sprinter has already lost his case. Sunglasses maker Oakley has announced that they have "suspended" their contract with "Blade Runner," and Nike says they will no longer include him in their advertising campaigns. The brands even had to scramble to pull an ad that feature Pistorius coming out of the starting blocks with the caption, "I am the bullet in the chamber."
Earlier this week, the sprinter's agent said that despite the high-profile defections, sponsors are sticking by him until the legal process plays out. (Nike and Oakley have not technically fired him, but he won't be in any more ads.) Yet there's no denying that they want to distance themselves from his scandal. French fragrance company Theirry Mugler took down all his mentions from their website. Even the organizers of South Africa's "It Gets Better" campaign have pulled a video that featured him encouraging gay and lesbian young people to stand up to harassment and bullying.
Unfortunately for Pistorius, he's unlikely to ever get back in the good graces of most sponsors, whether he's exonerated or not. A trial could take more than a year to play out, and even if he doesn't spend it locked up without bail, he's unlikely to race during that time. He'll come back to his sport—if he comes back—out of shape, out of practice, older, and unable to change the fact that he shot and killed another human being. Innocent or guilty, that's not a public image that sells shoes. If the time ever comes that people have forgotten the incident or are ready to forgive, he'll likely be too old to be one of the top competitors in track and field. And a track-and-field athlete without quality sponsors is not much of a track-and-field athlete at all.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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