Oscar Pistorious, a 2012 Olympian known as “Blade Runner” for his prosthetic limbs, is in danger of losing the sponsors that helped propel him to being the highest-paid Paralympic athlete in the world.
Pistorious was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, who was shot in his home on Thursday after Pistorious mistook her as a burglar.
The 26-year old South African sprinter had deals with Nike, Oakley ,perfume maker Thierry Mugler and running blade manufacturer Ossur. His deals were worth an estimated $4.7 million.
While most of his sponsors declined to comment, the South African satelite TV channel M-Net announced that they would be pulling their campaign featuring Pistorious immediately out of respect for him and his family.
The potential loss of his sponsorships comes as no surprise. Often, when athletes find themselves in any sort of legal trouble, sponsors who are worried about portraying a negative image will cut ties with those athletes. In recent cases, Nike ended its’ sponsorship with cyclist Lance Armstrong after it was revealed he was doping during his run of seven straight Tour de France titles. Gatorade cut ties with Tiger Woods when news broke that he had cheated on his wife.
Sports marketing firm Brand Rapport’s Nigel Currie compared this case to the 1994 murder trial of football star O.J. Simpson, and said that this is new territory.
“With all the others, there was always the chance [the sports figure] could come back in some other guise or reinvent himself or do something,” Currie said. This time, “if [Pistorius] is responsible, it is life and death as opposed to a personal scandal or a cheating drugs scandal.”
Photo credit: Anja Niedringhaus/AP