Athletes Who Lost Endorsement Deals Because Of Scandals

By Victoria Simpson on May 29 2020 in Sports

Image credit:
Image credit:
  • Lance Armstrong says he doped since he was about 21.
  • Michael Phelps was once caught inhaling on a marijuana pipe.
  • Tiger Woods lost endorsements for cheating on his wife.

Professional athletes make money through their salary and from winning a championship title, but they can also make quite a lot of cash through promotional deals. With endorsement deals, companies pay elite athletes to advertise their products. Athletes sign up to be the spokesperson for a particular product for a certain amount of time, and are paid for doing so. 

Sometimes the product being advertised has a practical link, such as a tennis player endorsing a brand of athletic gear by wearing the company’s shirts, shorts, and shoes, and using a specific brand of tennis racket while competing on the court. At other times, the link between the athlete and the product is a bit more elusive, such as when athletes promote breakfast cereals. 

Some athletes make millions of dollars each year in endorsements.  If an athlete continues to perform at a high level, their endorsement deal could last a long time. Competitors need to be careful of how they perform on the pitch or court, as well as off of it, however, in order to keep their endorsements.  Saying the wrong thing or behaving in a disreputable manner can quickly end a deal and send a former winner running penniless down the road. 

What does it take to get an endorsement deal, and to then lose it? Here are five professional athletes who made some bad choices and were dumped as a result.  

Lance Armstrong

Armstrong started doping at 21. Image credit:

For many years, Lance Armstrong was the undisputable king of cycling. Hailing from Plano, Texas, Armstrong won an astounding seven consecutive Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005, as well as many other impressive championships. He seemed to be a cycling god with miraculous powers once his feet hit the pedals. At the height of his fame, Armstrong had endorsement contracts with Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Trek, Oakley, RadioShack, Easton-Bell, and others that totaled somewhere between $15 and $18 million, reflecting his athletic prowess. 

All that came to an end when it was found out Armstrong had been doping for years. The cyclist says he started doping around the age of 21 “dabbling in low octane cortisone” and then moving onto erythropoietin or EPO, which boosts your red blood cells and allows the blood to carry more oxygen to the body’s muscles. 

Tiger Woods 

Tiger Woods lost numerous endorsement deals when it was discovered he was cheating on his wife. Image credit:

Woods is known for being a golfing powerhouse, but he came upon difficult turf when it was revealed he had been cheating on his wife in 2009. His numerous extramarital affairs became public knowledge, which tarnished the contrasting squeaky clean sports persona he typically portrayed on the golf course. Woods is reported to have lost up to $23 million in endorsement deals in the wake of the scandal. He was dropped by Gatorade, Accenture, and AT&T Inc.

Ryan Lochte

Lochte faced a scandal when he was caught vandalizing a gas station during the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Image credit:

American swimmers really do know how to win, and Lochte is one of them. Ryan Lochte is the second most-decorated swimmer in Olympic history, trailing Michael Phelps. He has twelve Olympic medals to his name, but unfortunately, some people might remember him for something else. Lochte was caught in a gas station vandalizing scandal during the 2016 Rio Olympics that resulted in the famous swimmer losing sponsorship deals from companies like Speedo and Ralph Lauren, and being suspended from his sport for ten months. 

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant's sexual assault case tarnished his legacy. Image credit:

In 2003, basketball phenomenon Kobe Bryant was accused of raping an 18-years old female at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, in Colorado. He settled the case out of court, the details of which remain private. Due to this behavior, Bryant also lost some huge sponsorships along the way. McDonald’s, Nutella, and Sprite were some of the names that turned away from the basketball mogul. 

Michael Phelps

Phelps lost his Kellogg's endorsement deal for smoking marijuana. Image credit:

This twenty-three time Olympic medalist in swimming has been very vocal in his stance against drugs in sport. He has expressed his view that sports need to come clean, and that he does not think he ever competed in one race in which no one involved was taking performance-enhancing drugs. So, how does Phelps have a drug scandal under his belt? It seems he is actually not a stranger to ALL drugs. 

The swimming giant was once photographed inhaling from a marijuana pipe. Consequently, he lost his sponsorship deal with Kellogg’s. This photograph was not said to be “consistent with Kellogg’s image” and thus Phelps lost the endorsement deal. That being said, Phelps is still rumored to be worth somewhere between $50 and $60 million, and so obviously this was not a great loss as other deals came his way. It still was not his best moment in history. 

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