Sunday, February 28, 2010

Heroic Deeds

While I was watching the preliminaries to the closing ceremonies for these amazing Olympic games, all of the stories that were covered featured the athletes who had overcome previous adversity to finally reach the Olympic dream. Athletes such as Hannah Kearney and Steve Holcomb took center stage and were honored by the news broadcast. This caused me to think however about the role of the athlete as a role model and hero to entire nations. I found an article from a few days ago in the USA Today that considers the role that athletes play in the public realm. This article mainly focuses first on athletes such as O.J. Simpson and Tiger Woods who have had various publicity problems. It then progresses to analyze the actual role of the athlete in regards to being a role model. Finally, the part that was most interesting to me was the business implications to having a spokesman run into some kind of scandal. Surprisingly however there seems to be a very tiny effect on the brand itself. However, it does make sense because before the hero had been disgraced in some form after influencing perhaps thousands of consumers to use a product. The athlete only convinces the user to buy the product; once the product is bought, it must stand on its own. If the consumer liked the product, then the athlete endorsement would have lost much of its meaning. The only thing that having a spokesman or spokeswoman who is involved in a scandal will change within marketing is the effect that he or she will no longer be able to be as successful in this capacity. However, there are so many popular athletes to choose from that all marketing would need to do is hire another one. Saying this though, there are some athletes who would not be replaceable. The first image that came to my mind was Michael Jordan in his prime. He was the most recognizable figure in athletics and certainly one of the most famous people in the world. It is very difficult to find someone else who has that appeal. Luckily, or perhaps not, there are not many Michael Jordans in the world, so the dilemma of replacing one does not come along very often.

It is a shame however that we even need to worry about scandals. However, public figures are human as well and mess up just like the rest of us. The only difference is that their mistakes are broadcast on international news whereas many of our individual mistakes might not even be seen by another person. Public figures should realize that they are indeed held to a higher standard because they are essentially heroes to so many. Whether this standard is fair or not is not really even the question; the point is that athletes need to realize this standard and do their best to live up to it. When they don't, the public needs to realize that they are human, and while that doesn't excuse what they did, it does reinforce the tradition of sinful humans.

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