Erin Andrews, the ESPN sideline reporter, noted that during the Rose Bowl and National Championship game, players were slipping all over the field and couldn’t gain traction in their new NIKE cleats. The shoes in question – “Zoom Alpha Talon Cleat” – had been introduced to the media in mid-December. This, obviously, was a terrible first impression for the new line. A few days after the bowl games were over, NIKE rival Reebok announced Andrews would be featured in its ZigTech campaign. Her twitter avatar features the shoe. Conflict of interest?
It probably depends who you ask. The Oregonian asked “a teacher at the Poynter Institute, a journalism school in St. Petersburg, Florida.” Here’s what Kelly McBride said:
Journalists can review products. But they can’t take money from a company to endorse them. That totally ruins their credibility. The example you give is a good one. But think about any type of journalist, like a tech reporter or health reporter. If those reporters were getting paid to endorse mp3 players or cholesterol drugs, no one in the audience would trust their judgment, because their independence would be compromised.
ESPN’s response to the Oregonian? “It’s rare she would cover stories involving shoes in her role. With that said, if something relevant comes up, she would disclose her Reebok connection.” So if she’s covering a game and players are slipping around and it’s all due to the sneakers, will she mention the Reebok cleats by name, or just leave out the brand? Kind of makes you wonder how much she’s making on the Reebok deal, huh?
Its a tough spot for ESPN. Remember when it stripped sideline reporter Jenn Brown of her Icehouse campaign? Well, ESPN fought hard to keep Andrews last year, bending over backward. They wouldn’t really make her give up this campaign, would they?