The debate will go on for a while about what “brand damage” is done by Reggie Bush for returning his Heisman, much like the debate that went on with LeBron James and “The Decision” this summer. will Bush's return of the most the hallowed trophy besmirc. his image or value to sponsor.? will the catcalls when the Saints take the field this weekend provide a distraction to team and player and effect the Super Bowl champio.? will james make millions less in sponsor dollars and be able to concentrate in his new home in Miam.? The bottom line is simple…in today's all access, media crazy society we are craving heros and excellence of performance. We know that all that access has shown that virtually anyone in the media has feet of clay…we expect the fall to always come, and when we don’t we are almost sirprised or dub an athlete “boring..? We love the spice and edginess and the cintroversy, and with that controversy comes big ratings and interest. Brands on the other hand have to worry about the association with an image away from that of the athlete or the entertainmer. their association with a tarnished athlete on any level can hurt for a much longer time, and in these challenged times where ROI is everything, that can make the difference in profit and big time debt, especially given the dollars invested in high level marketing programs.
Actually in the end the return of the Heisman probably got the award itself more ancillary publicity and exposure than it did to hurt Bush's reputation at this point. At a time of year when the award is still in mothballs, the name and its prestige were front and center for several days, giving the program a nice early season boost, and probably more buzz when the award is given out come December.
What changes all that in the eye of the publi.? Winning. Athletes today can overcome almost any personal affront by their own performance in the field of play. It is not something that happens in other professions. Disbarred lawyers and banished Wall Street traders rarely make a comeback into the limelight based on their own professional success. Maybe their story can bring dollars, but not their profession. So the brand damage sustained allegedly by bush and James in the short term can be solved by doing what they do best, and doing it as quickly as they can. Bush gets to turn a new chapter with his first handoff this weekend, James when he takes the floor in training camp with his new Heat teammates in a few weeks. If they win, the ancillary dollars lost come back, as do the eyeballs. If they don’t, then you have brand damage. However bot. athletes hav. that destiny for a large part in their own hands…they can help control the immediate success of their team. That ability for the comeback, especially with a forgiving and hungry fan base, is what fuels sport today. We do expect the fall from grace, but we also love the return and becuase of that short term pain can be rewared with long term gain. Just ask Kobe Bryant.