ESPN says new endorsement guidelines for talent will keep Erin Andrews from renewing Reebok deal
ESPN unveiled today new, standardized guidelines regarding permissible endorsements for its editorial staff, including about 1,000 on air TV and radio hosts, play-by-play commentators, analysts reporters and columnists.
And the new guidelines, which require prior approval from ESPN for any deal, will have an impact for one high profile personality: Tampa-raised ESPN star Erin Andrews.
The new guidelines place a "strong presumption that they will not be approved" on "any endorsement related to apparel, footwear or athletic equipment used for...any sport or event ESPN may cover," which would seem to scotch the endorsement deal Andrews has with Reebok.
That arrangement sparked a controversy earlier this year, when Andrews noted during Rose Bowl coverage that players for Texas Christian were slipping on the field in new Nike shoes. Weeks later, news of her deal with rival Reebok was announced and media experts wondered why ESPN was allowing a journalist to endorse a product, particularly one which could be affected by her reporting.
Now ESPN spokesman Bill Hofheimer says that Andrews will not renew her Reebok deal when it expires at the end of this year. "Given that sponsors have expended resources and there are campaigns in place already, we decided this was the fairest way to handle it," said Hofheimer, explaining why Andrews -- who received permission from ESPN to sign the deal -- wasn't required to drop the contract immediately.
The new guidelines also would likely nix an arrangement with Nike involving three other members of ESPN's College Game Day on air team (Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso) involving speaking engagements, which the New York Times revealed soon after Andrews' deal came to light. ESPN did not approve that deal.
ESPN also plans to debut a web page Monday listing all of its talents' approved endorsement deals that the public can access. It's a level of disclosure I once mentioned in a column -- quoting New York University professor Jay Rosen -- as a way to disclose any potential conflicts among journalists in an area where anyone can review, allowing the public to make up its own mind about potential conflicts.
Click here to see a great video compilation by the sports blog Deadspin of all the ESPN personality endorsements, a time which may now be past.