How will a frenzy over Hope Solo's marriage to Jerramy Stevens affect the soccer star's career and value as a celebrity?
Women’s soccer star Hope Solo likely didn’t damage her existing endorsement deals with anything that transpired during the past week.
But specialists in branding and marketing agree her future earnings could be harmed if she continues to surface in news stories of an unflattering nature. From her Twitter tirade against onetime U.S. teammate Brandi Chastain during the London Olympics to the bizarre events surrounding her marriage to former Huskies and Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens, Solo continues to make news for things other than her on-field play.
And those familiar with the world of celebrity endorsements say that rarely leads to anything good when it comes to future money.
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“If there’s a lot of smoke around a particular situation, most clients are risk-averse,” said Seattle native Doug Hall, a vice president at Team Epic, a Connecticut-based marketing and consulting firm that advises businesses on sports branding and endorsement opportunities.
“I don’t think Gatorade’s going to jump ship on her just yet,” Hall added. “In terms of future endorsements, it could have an impact if it keeps happening.”
Solo, a former University of Washington goalkeeper, has enjoyed endorsement deals with Gatorade, Bank of America, Nike and Seiko, to name a few. It remains unclear what her immediate soccer future will be, though she has said she plans to compete in the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
Stevens, 33, was arrested under suspicion of having assaulted Solo, 31, at her Kirkland home Monday. A stun gun was reportedly used to break up the altercation, but a judge ordered Stevens released Tuesday, saying there was not sufficient cause to hold him.
The couple reportedly had been dating two months and got married later Tuesday. Police say the incident remains under investigation.
Hall, a 1992 Washington graduate, said it’s impossible to know the extent of the impact on Solo’s earning potential until more facts come out about the case. Further complicating the issue, he added, is the fact that Solo is not said to have been anything but a victim in this latest instance.
“With one instance, like this kerfuffle, if she’s found to be a victim, it probably won’t impact her earnings,” Hall said. “If she’s the type of person who repeatedly finds herself in situations like these, then questions about her judgment would come into play, and companies tend to shy away from that.”
Anthony Fernandez, a Florida-based sports and celebrity branding specialist, said Solo already harmed her image with “irrational” and “erratic” tweets she put out during the Olympics, criticizing former teammate and current NBC soccer commentator Chastain. The latest news involving Stevens, he said, will reinforce the notion she has an “unpredictable nature” and likely discourage new endorsements for the time being.
“I honestly can’t see her getting any more endorsements for the next year and a half,” said Fernandez, who expects Solo’s current deals to remain in place as long as nothing further transpires.
“These companies look for somebody of a predictable nature,” Fernandez said. “And when you keep popping up in the media like this for stuff that has nothing to do with what got you those deals in the first place, that’s never good.”
Fernandez said even a personal choice like marriage can have a negative appeal to advertisers if too much bad publicity results from it. He cites the case of former TV star Pamela Anderson and how her image suffered in the 1990s as a result of her at-times abusive marriage to rocker Tommy Lee.
Pop star Rihanna has also endured ample criticism for appearing to reconcile with former boyfriend Chris Brown, who savagely beat her nearly four years ago. Recent reports indicate the two even collaborated on a song for her new album.
In this case, Stevens has not been proved to have assaulted Solo. But her decision to marry him has sparked criticism in the media and on the Internet, given the timing so soon after his arrest Monday as well as his history of run-ins with police for myriad issues, including violence against both women and men.
But Kate Newlin, a New York-based author and branding strategist, said Solo’s image will probably emerge intact if the story dies here and no repeat allegations occur. In Rihanna’s case, Newlin said, the biggest problems came from the singer’s seemingly dismissive attitude about the assault and the fact it kept coming up in the media.
Ultimately, Newlin added, Solo isn’t accused of having done something wrong.
“You look at the guys, the ones that get accused of beating up on women and have a lot of celebrity status on their own and they seem to survive,” Newlin said. “I’m hoping that if the puncher survives, that the punchee would come out of it intact. If the guys can survive intact, I would think that the woman could, too.”
And if nothing further comes of the Stevens arrest, she said, the focus will inevitably revert to Solo’s brilliant playing career on the international stage.
“If it stops here, people will look at this and what does it say? It’s a little bit of a glitch with judgment in her personal life, but it doesn’t impact the stuff she became famous for.”
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @gbakermariners