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9 Most Embarrassing Sports Celebrity Endorsements (Videos)

by: Howard Cosmell On  Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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Can you put a price on dignity and integrity? For many, that answer is no. Fortunately for us, for the vast majority of athletes, that answer is a resounding yes. Judging by the caliber of businesses that many of these athletes represent, the price of their dignity doesn’t seem to be particularly high. These nine athletes below sold out for scrap metal liquidators, Gatorade, and damn near every business in between.

At least the work they did was always tasteful and top-tier. Wait. No it wasn’t. The items below are glorious examples of bad ideas, bad acting, and bad timing by many of the biggest names in sports.

1.   John Madden – Tinactin

This is a perfect example of the synergy between a ridiculous product and equally ridiculous spokesperson. Phillip Rivers or Albert Pujols want to tell me about their struggles with athlete’s foot? Great. I’m listening. They’re athletes, and they are expected to get athletes foot.

I’m assuming John Madden was once an athlete. I know him as a coach, broadcaster, and video game mogul. If I’m listening to an announcer for 3.5 hours during a FOX broadcast, I don’t want my mind wandering during a 3rd and goal if John Madden is currently suffering from athlete’s foot while he offers commentary on Eli Manning’s tendency to look for the tight end for the score.

I wonder if athlete’s foot is what caused John Madden to retire from broadcasting. We’ll never know. Unless he makes an ad about it.

2. Rafael Palmiero – Viagra
Following its introduction into the marketplace, Viagra quickly became the benchmark for “embarrassing sponsorship opportunity.” It is one thing to spackle your stock car with the Viagra logo and tagline, it’s another thing to become an honest-to-God spokesperson for the product.

At the risk of stating the obvious and insulting the reader, when you’re a perennial all-star in the twilight of your career, endorsing a product that suggests your penis doesn’t work properly is a suspect move. When your endorsement coincides with a headline-making steroid scandal, it takes what’s left of your career and turns it into a punchline.

3. Joe Namath – Beautymist Pantyhose

Braodway Joe was known for bringing some flash to what was previously an almost exclusively blue-collar sport in football, but this ad may have gone a little too far. While it most certainly didn’t embarrass Namath (any man that macks on Suzy Kolber on national TV doesn’t know shame), it probably embarrassed more than a few reps of the league who found it to be a less than manly take on the game.

Regardless, of the outcome, this was an unexpected move from a man who regularly wore fur coats on the sidelines, and the league was left with a black eye until they managed to get over themselves.

4. Dikembe Mutumbo – C&D Scrap Metal

When a local business hires someone with as much unintentional comedy value as Dikembe Mutumbo, it’s going to be a coin flip as to who ends up most embarrassed; the spokesperson or the company the spokesperson represents.If you slow down the audio and analyze it digitally and filter it, it appears that Mutumbo grunts, “Hey! That’s big!,” but we’ll never know for sure. Other than that, it looks like his requirements for the video were “Wear your uniform and act tall.” Both of which he did like a true professional.

5. Magic Johnson – KFC

Sports stars have long been corporate spokesmen for fast food outlets, with Michael Jordan and McDonalds being the most prominent example. However, the Magic Johnson-Kentucky Fried Chicken relationship is a little stranger than most pairings, if only because, at this time, KFC sold fried chicken and little else, making it an odd partner for a superstar athlete.

What really tilted the scales towards “odd” and “embarrassing” was the timing of this campaign. It was running in 1991 when Magic Johnson told the world he was living with HIV, which came as shocking news to everyone in the sports world and beyond. To see him shilling chicken during such a dark hour was unsettling and perhaps created a mental link between KFC and AIDS, which is probably not something the PR firm was shooting for.

6. Hulk Hogan – Pastamania

The manner in which some celebrities decide to leverage their fame is truly bizarre. You’re Hulk Hogan, how do you use your fame? Gym equipment, tiger-striped pants companies, etc. Now, Hulk and middle America probably had a pretty good relationship, so taking his name into the Mall of America in Minnesota made sense. But what he did with his name is head-scratchingly curious.

An affordable pasta chain endorsed by Hulk Hogan. The answer to a question no one asked. The truly embarrassing nature of this venture is how little credit he gave the public. Dish names like Hulk-U’s and Hulk-A-Roos (see the theme?) surely managed to kill whatever appetite their few patrons had. Consequently, Pastamania went belly-up after a year, disproving the adage that no one ever went broke underestimating the American public.

7. Tiger Woods – Gatorade

Tiger was the quintessential spokesman before last Thanksgiving. He was instantly recognizable, culturally transcendent and synonymous with “winner”. Everyone wanted him on their side. Following his sex scandal, some companies were quick to walk away, some stood by him. Even those that stood by him, though, realized that they would need to handle any future marketing with kid gloves, as this was fairly divisive issue for America.

Gatorade quickly changed its campaigns with Tiger, but not before we got full page images of Tiger on an Arizona golf course with the tagline “Is it in you?”. Before, we knew that Gatorade was asking us if the spirit of a champion was in us. Now, it appeared Gatorade was asking us if Tiger was penetrating us. Even if he wasn’t, it reminded us that he had recently banged a LOT of women that weren’t his wife.

8. Joe Montana – Skechers Shape-ups

Some endorsements are so random and out of left field that they completely ruin the intent of the campaign by causing the viewer to ask “What went wrong in X’s life that they need to do this?” Such is the Skechers campaign with football great Joe Montana.

Does he have gambling debts? Was he bullied into a contract by the mob? He doesn’t look overweight, so why is he endorsing shoes that promote weight loss in a really strange fashion?

It’s almost as if Montana took a class in cheesy spokesmanship. Irrelevant former star? Check. Cheesy lines about old star making a comeback thanks to great new product? Check. Fake spectacular achievements in ad (like hitting a tiny target multiple times from 50 yards away)? Check.

If someone can solve the mystery of why Joe threw set aside his dignity to make these new ads, let us know. The smart money is on cash, but that almost seems to be too simple an answer in this case.

9.  Jimmy Johnson – Extenze

Just laying it out there: Jimmy Johnson is officially done giving a shit. Despite being a prominent figure on national TV as a football analyst, he has no problem talking about how Extenze pills make his endowment bigger (I’m sure there is some hefty compensation in that equation) and gong shirtless to win this fall in Survivor: Nicaragua.

The man was a championship coach in college and pro ball for God’s sake. He shouldn’t need to talk about making his penis bigger. Yet he does. And while he may or may not be embarrassed about his choices, there’s probably no one more comfortable in the spotlight, so he can probably be found laughing all the way to the bank with his dick-pill money.




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