Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pro Athletes Who Sell Soda Are Business People, Not Role Models

Here's Canada's own superstar Christine Sinclair, considered to be one of the greatest female soccer players of all time, selling her name and credibility to the promotion of drinking Coca-Cola (while sitting on a couch playing video games).

The argument in her defence is that we don't fund women's sport sufficiently and consequently she has to take whatever she can get endorsement wise to survive.

I honestly have no idea whether or not that's true. I do know that Sinclair has multiple sponsors, that she's an in-demand public speaker, and this article intimates that her speaker's fee is likely well into the five-figure realm, but even if that weren't the case, her choice to be, in her words, "selling Coke", is undoubtedly still a choice, and likely a lucrative business decision.

Proof that who you take on as your sponsor is still your choice even when times are tight comes from skateboarder Sebo Walker. Walker lives in a van. When in a recent interview he was asked,
"Would you ever draw lines with sponsorship choices? Would you ride for a cigarette company or energy drinks."
his answer was pretty clear,
"Nah, I don’t think that I would do that honestly. Obviously there is the money factor, it seems like the dudes that jump on those are actually making a good amount of money and are chilling. But I’m never one to ever do something just because of money. It seems weird, like the worst kind of sellout I feel like. You have to promote something that you know is not gonna be healthy or good for kids. I had an opportunity to ride for Mountain Dew – they wanted to be on the AMforce team – where Paul Rodriguez picked me out of a couple of guys. I was like 15 or something. I just ended up having to tell the lady that I couldn’t do it."
Walker also shared some thoughts on what being a role model meant to him,
"Well, it’s a pretty cool position to be in, especially if you’re pro. I mean it’s almost like, anything you do, the kids will want to do .... I feel like you just have that influence and it’s pretty powerful, so you can take advantage of that and promote good things like taking good care of your body or drinking water, eating healthy, things like that. Kids are really impressionable and it’s cool to be able to have them inspired by what you do."
So I'm not here to criticize Sinclair's business acumen. Instead I'm just pointing out that if you're an elite athlete who commands the admiration and respect of adoring young fans, if you then choose to use that influence to sell them sugared soda, you're no longer someone who can be considered a good role model, instead you're just a business person.