John Terry: Captain Controversial?

With the on-going race trial involving Chelsea captain John Terry, who is accused of racially abusing fellow footballer Anton Ferdinand, one has to wonder how future endorsement deals are going to come about for the ageing footballer. The allegations and revelations surrounding him have undoubtedly made companies nervous about linking him with their brands.

It’s every young aspiring footballer’s dream to one day play for their country, and to become a role-model to literally millions of kids. And this should be the pay-off. If a brand wants to pay you large sums of money in order to become the face of that brand, then a role-model is what you have to be. So is it any suprise that John Terry has had surprisingly few personal endorsement deals?

Apart from a contract to be the face of male grooming brand King of Shaves, which ended in April 2008, his only other personal endorsements have been with Umbro and the computer game Pro Evolution Soccer.

I mean, what company wants a brand campaign fronted by a suspected racist?

John Terry may not be a racist, and recent developments in his race trial have indicated towards this, but the point’s that he IS involved in a race trial, which can only have a detrimental effect on future endorsement deals.

Umbro, the sports brand that is England’s kit supplier and is now owned by Nike, have already refused to comment on the future of its £4m endorsement deal with Terry, while England’s sponsor, Nationwide, has made clear it sponsors the team rather than individuals–with the underlying assumptions in such a statement being shamefully obvious.

It’s about creating a public persona. David Beckham flirted with controversy sure, but he and his team were ultimately dedicated to creating a positive media image. Public opinion is everything, especially in a role as important as the England captain. Both David Beckham and Alan Shearer made a lot of commercial capital from the role.

Branding experts expect Nationwide and Samsung, the Korean electronics firm that recently extended its Chelsea sponsorship until 2013, are going to quietly drop Terry’s image from campaigns while they gauge public opinion.

It’s been reported that Terry has missed up to £6million in commercial spinoffs because of the controversies that have dogged his career and sports sponsorship experts believe the England captaincy is worth up to £1.5m a year in endorsements — but Terry has often been overlooked.

Can all these commercial failings be put down to John Terry’s on-, and off-, field controversies? Some have blamed his advisors. Since he split from former agent Aaron Lincoln last year he has been looked after by Elite Management, run by his former Chelsea youth team colleague Paul Nicholls and Rushden & Diamonds chairman Keith Cousins. Maybe a different agency would have handled things differently.

No-one is going to deny that John Terry is a good footballer and one of the country’s best defenders–he performed okay at the World Cup and last season lifted the Champions League trophy with Chelsea, but when we’re talking about millions of pounds in endorsement deals, simply being a good footballer is not enough–it has to be combined with a positive, clean-cut image. Though ultimately public opinion will have the final say.

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