Sponsors Seem Unlikely to Cut Ties With Mickelson
Athletes can earn millions of dollars in endorsements, but those deals can disappear — quickly — if a brand decides that its superstar may no longer be good for its image. That could eventually turn into a problem for Phil Mickelson, a golfer under investigation for possible insider trading.
On Friday, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported that Mickelson, billionaire investor Carl C. Icahn and gambler William T. Walters were under investigation by the FBI. All three have denied wrongdoing.
Mickelson has a number of endorsement deals, including with Barclays, KPMG and Callaway Golf. But experts doubt any of the brands will cut ties with him just yet.
"Unless there's more to this story than what has come out so far, I don't see them pulling out now," said Jeff Knapple, president and chief executive of Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment in New York.
In 2009, AT&T and several other brands dropped Tiger Woods after he acknowledged cheating on his wife. After Kobe Bryant was accused of rape in 2003, he lost deals with McDonald's and Nutella. (The charges were later dropped.)
KPMG could have the most sensitivity, given that one of its employees was embroiled in an insider trading scandal last year. But spokesman Seth Oster said in an email, "We have had a very strong relationship with Phil for a number of years, and we fully expect it to continue."