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Advertisers back away from NBA's LA Clippers

By Marley Jay

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:08 p.m. HST, Apr 28, 2014

Advertisers are backing away from the Los Angeles Clippers after racist comments attributed to the NBA team's owner.

Mercedes-Benz USA said Monday its dealerships are ending their sponsorship of the Clippers in the wake of comments allegedly made by the team's owner, Donald Sterling. Used car dealership chain CarMax, airline Virgin America, and the Chumash Casino Resort are doing the same.

Three other sponsors, Kia Motors America, energy drink maker Red Bull and hardwood flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators, said they are suspending their advertising and sponsorship activities with the team. Another sponsor, insurer State Farm, said it "will be taking a pause in our relationship with the organization."

The Clippers declined to comment.

The incident highlights the risks that companies face when they make sponsorship deals. The deals can bring goodwill when things are going well, but brands face a tough spot when they link themselves with teams or athletes that become mired in controversy. Advertising experts say that once the bad news it out there, a negative association could have already been made in the eyes of consumers.

Allen Adamson, managing director of research firm Landor Associates, said there's little benefit for brands to stick with their sponsorship deals in this instance.

"There's some benefit in moving quickly," he said. "You can always renew your sponsorship later, but the longer you're linking your brand to a brand in trouble, the higher the risk."

Paul Swangard, managing director at Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, said sponsorships like Carmax and Virgin America can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions, depending on terms of the agreement. He said many brands might be waiting to see what happens at the NBA's press conference on Tuesday.

"The early indication is that this could be incredibly damaging to the franchise if things aren't dealt with quickly," he said

This isn't the first time companies have had to consider whether to keep a sponsorship deal after a controversy erupts. Nike and other sponsors dropped disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong after his doping scandal. But many sponsors stood by golfer Tiger Woods after he acknowledged infidelities and went to rehab for sex addiction.

Sterling has come under fire for comments he is alleged to have made in a recorded conversation with a woman. Portions of that conversation were released over the weekend by TMZ and Deadspin, leading to a national outcry. The NBA is planning a news conference Tuesday on its investigation into Sterling.

"CarMax finds the statements attributed to the Clippers' owner completely unacceptable," Richmond, Va.-based CarMax Inc. said Monday in an emailed statement. "While we have been a proud Clippers sponsor for 9 years and support the team, fans and community, these statements necessitate that CarMax end its sponsorship."

Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm also described the remarks as offensive and said it will monitor the situation as the facts are sorted out. It will continue to run its Born to Assist ad campaign, which began in December 2012 and features Clippers point guard Chris Paul as himself and a fictional, mustachioed insurance-selling twin, Cliff Paul. State Farm said that campaign is part of its overall sponsorship of the NBA.

Kia's suspension of sponsorship and ads with the Clippers does not affect its deal with Clippers star Blake Griffin, who appears in commercials for the car company.

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kekelaward wrote:
Remind me again why we're supposed to care about what a racist democrat says. No one seemed to care when the top democrat in the US Senate made a racist statement about the current resident of the White House.
on April 28,2014 | 08:32AM
thepartyfirst wrote:
Seems like the word "allegedly" is a word that the Media will use as a weapon to go after anyone of their choosing to crucify and impose their will as judge and jury.
on April 28,2014 | 10:19AM
serious wrote:
Yes, but as kekelaward suggests, the Media picks and chooses and if it's a Democrat--hey, boys will be boys!!!
on April 28,2014 | 12:28PM
DiverDave wrote:
Isn't there an expectation of privacy in a private conversation? Was this a phone conversation, or at home? There are strict laws about a private conversation being released without telling someone they are being recorded.
on April 28,2014 | 01:18PM
holokanaka wrote:
I guess he can sue his girlfriend which of course means he will be paying his lawyer, her lawyer. all court fees, and any awards of the court. what would you do joker??
on April 28,2014 | 02:18PM
thepartyfirst wrote:
If you record a conversation it must be a 2 party consent otherwise I don't think it is admissible.
on April 28,2014 | 02:29PM
CriticalReader wrote:
The girlfriend looks weird.
on April 28,2014 | 09:26AM
lwandcah wrote:
Ahhhh... but it is true love. Yea right. They both will end up getting what they deserve; she will be without her sugar daddy, and he will be without sponsors and possibly a franchise in the long run, and main squeeze (although I am sure there are a whole lot of others out there waiting in line).
on April 28,2014 | 11:41AM
HD36 wrote:
She's half black half latino. aka Blaxican
on April 28,2014 | 12:53PM
BTO wrote:
The tongue is like a rudder that can shipwreck the Bismark. However the quiet tongue that still has hate in his heart is already sunk, unless that seed of hate is taken away can one have true peace.
on April 28,2014 | 09:42AM
entrkn wrote:
The Clippers franchise is going to have to change hands.
on April 28,2014 | 12:26PM
Morimoto wrote:
She's just drop dead UGLY. Guess money can't buy good tastes.
on April 28,2014 | 12:31PM
iwanaknow wrote:
The girlfriend/mistress got a 1.4 million dollar apartment, a $485,000 Ferrari, 2 Bentleys, a Land Rover and alot of bling (and the wife ( who is separated from her husband) is trying to get it all back)..............he's worth 1.9 Billion (with a B)................what's the problem?...............he's a Sterling example.
on April 28,2014 | 12:47PM
HD36 wrote:
And he pays the starting point gaurd $18 million a year. And he's black.
on April 28,2014 | 12:56PM
Morimoto wrote:
Very simplistic thinking. So what's your point? That he knows how to run a business?
on April 28,2014 | 01:20PM
loquaciousone wrote:
Are we supposed to believe that that hottie sitting next to him likes him for his personality and not the size of his wallet.
on April 28,2014 | 02:03PM
cojef wrote:
Most don't, for what they have to do to stay in good graces with the big bucks. They actually hate themselves also for doing the other than ordinary. One can't buy love! For women marriage is it, all others are sham.
on April 28,2014 | 02:43PM
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