To say the Oscar Pistorius case has come at a bad time for advertisers is a bit of an understatement.
The Blade Runner, who is fighting a murder charge over the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, has a number of sponsors and was the face of many marketing campaigns.
Two of those advertisers were put in a particularly awkward position as soon as the Valentine’s Day shooting story emerged – sportswear giant Nike, and South African TV channel M-Net.
Companies are quick to get sport stars and celebrities on board to endorse them. And in Oscar Pistorius, they had the perfect person to be the face of campaigns. Medal winner in three Paralympic Games, the first disabled athlete to take part in the Olympic Games, and an inspirational story of overcoming adversity to reach the top.
Reverting to damage control mode once it was revealed the 26-year-old South African fired four shots through the bathroom door at his home in Pretoria, killing Ms Steenkamp while thinking he was shooting at an intruder as he claims, Nike was quick to pull the darkly ironic ad featuring the stap line ‘I am a bullet in the chamber’.
The company has since said it will not use the Paralympian until legal proceedings are concluded.
Meanwhile, M-Net has pulled its ad called ‘Oscar for the Oscars’ in which the athlete was due to give his thoughts on various films nominated for awards at the glamorous ceremony.
The ad featured an event-company executive and employee brainstorming ways to hold a huge Oscar-themed event – ranging from a red carpet, a large Oscar, to a life-size Oscar. At that point, the employee hauls a duffel bag into the office containing Oscar Pistorius – a somewhat unfortunate image considering the fate of Ms Steenkamp on 14th February.
Crisis management strategies are in place for when things go wrong – and advertisers have been through plenty of cases in the past when events lead to the downfall of their clients – Tiger Woods and his affairs, Lance Armstrong and his drug taking and doping revelations to name a few.
For advertisers, the Pistorius case though seems to go one step further. As the saying goes, it never rains but it pours.