Marketing Nightmares: Sporting Saints Turned Sinners

Sometimes we serve to be the architects of our downfall…

Whilst it’s hardly fun having a fall from grace yourself, it’s been a long-standing past-time to revel in downfalls of sports stars, the more famous the better.

Whenever a sports star makes a gaff, or somehow jeopardises their career we are all given a opportunity to take a peek into their lives and wonder openly at how it could have all gone so wrong for them. When famous sportspeople make a public mistake we can see them as human, just like us, but we also have to wince at the considerable losses that they’ve incurred. To achieve so much and then to blow it all so publicly is a secret fear that we all share. There are some falls from grace so turbulent that not even an expert marketing company could recover their reputation, these are the people that we will focus on here:

Lance Armstrong

There is perhaps no other sportsman that has been so publicly vilified than Big Tex himself. Once considered to be one of the greatest cyclists of all time, not to mention an inspiration for cancer sufferers the world over, Armstrong was found to have been using performance enhancing drugs and to have been ‘the ringleader of the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that the sport has ever seen’. Armstrong elected to not contest that accusations and he was summarily stripped of his sporting achievements from 1998 onwards. Despite this huge fall from grace, he hasn’t exactly avoided the public eye, see his recent video with Architects Digest:

Shoeless Joe Jackson

Baseball might not be a sport that us Brits are particularly fond of, but it’s certainly home to a number of shocking controversies. In 1920, eight team mates from the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Such a large-scale case of match-fixing had not been seen until that day, however the most egregious part of this case was the involvement of the Chicago White Sox then star player, Shoeless Joe Jackson. Despite being one of the White Sox greatest ever players, Shoeless Joe remains a name associated with great shame for all Sox fans.

Tonya Harding

The 1994 Olympic Games were amongst the most hotly discussed in historic, thanks in large part to the headline grabbing exploits of Tonya Harding, an American figureskater. Her main rival at the time was Nancy Kerrigan, who was viciously attacked with a police baton by a man under the direction of Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly. Although she initially denied any knowledge of being involved in the plans to maim her rival, Tonya was prosecuted for hindering the prosecution and banned for life from the US Figure Skating Association.


Oscar Pistorius
There are many who have forgotten the name Pistorius, understandable considering the protracted nature of his case. The man once known as ‘Blade Runner’ won numerous medals during his time in the spotlight but it wasn’t until he was arrested and charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp that he achieved true international notoriety. Since being prosecuted Pistorius has been released on house arrest, only to be re-imprisoned. He won’t be able to appeal for parole again until 2023.