Brett Favre is the everyman athlete, who at the age of forty-one, seems to have accomplished all he can in the game of football. His off-field conduct is very average joe, but with the recent sexual harassment allegations and photographic evidence involving former Jets’ sideline girl, Jenn Sterger, Favre is risking more than developing a bad reputation. Members of the media are comparing the alleged dirty text messages and voicemails to Tiger Woods’ and his many mistresses and extramarital sexual conduct. Brett’s alleged actions involve a colleague who felt uncomfortable with his advances, so the situation qualifies as sexual harassment, and not a consensual act. Is this Favre’s only transgression as a professional athlete and will his legacy now be a dirty old man and not a gritty, iron man quarterback? Favre’s image is of a simple, family man with a decent sense of humour in his endorsement deals (Wrangler, Mastercard, Sears, Prilosec) but will the public’s perception of Favre change for the worst? Should he continue to shill brands in his Southern drawl despite allegations?
During Monday Night Football on October 11th, Favre reached another milestone in his career: touchdown number five hundred. The broadcast team tried to focus on his on-field performance and not make any ill-conceived purple helmet remarks. However, stateside it was hard for viewers to concentrate on Brett Favre’s game as his television spots for Wrangler jeans were airing during almost every commercial break. Many thought it was a joke rather than bad timing. The one question all over Twtiter was whether Brett Favre will continue to stay comfortable in Wrangler indefinitely. Wranger presents itself as a company that’s simple, hardworking and family friendly. A cheating quarterback leaving scandalous voicemails and sending comprising naked photos to a younger woman while his wife recovers from cancer is not the best example of a role model. But how many Wrangler customers find Favre’s behaviour an issue? Does his target market care or can they relate? The coverage of Favre’s photos is so overblown but even in a sports newsroom where I work, most of my co-workers didn’t go looking for the pictures or wear Wrangler jeans. Also, since the photos could be of someone else, Favre is innocent until proven guilty.
The biggest determining factor in whether or not Favre stays in his Wrangler’s is how he chooses to respond to the allegations and media enquiries. As of now, Wrangler representatives are staying on sidelines but issued the following statement to Women’s Wear Daily, “We are following the story like everyone else. We are not making any major decisions on our marketing program until more information is available.” Wrangler is playing it smart. They don’t want to risk ruining the image of their brand with the new spokesmodel and marketing campaign. Favre continues as the face of the brand, because he is a well-known face and all-American brand. He still wears his original Packers’ colourway faded t-shirt in many of the advertisements as an example of how long he’s been a Wrangler man.
After the Monday Night Football game, Favre addressed the media, but made it clear he only wanted to discuss football. The best remedy for Favre is to apologize, move on and hopefully settle with both affected parties: his wife, Deana and Jenn Sterger. Whether or not he did it, he needs to make sure that he does not let it define his legacy by confronting it quickly, preferably quietly, and moving on. If Favre continues to ignore the situation, like Tiger did for so long, it will only add fuel to the fire and he has yet to confirm nor deny the allegations. Tiger’s sponsors did not know what to believe, so the uncertainty of Tiger and his play in the PGA, outweighed the product placement. Tiger was insincere and overly guarded in his press conference and while I dread another press conference from Favre; a teary, short and apologetic press conference in his Southern drawl could win fans and sponsors back. Favre needs to highlight his best attributes as an athlete and a man by being heartfelt, passionate, simply spoken and of course, emotional. He is the everyman gifted athlete, and in the modern-day many people can relate to an “aww shucks” moment with a mobile phone. If Deana Favre stands by her man, that will only help the Brett brand.
I don’t expect Wrangler will officially announce a decision until after Favre addresses the situation and NFL commissioner Roger Goddell weigh in. The safest thing for Wrangler to do would be to decrease their television budget starting now, then re-air or even re-shoot new commercials once the sexual harassment situation and the Deadspin daily posts die down. After all, no rumor lasts forever. One silver lining is that Crocs, the now infamous footwear that Favre sports in the mobile phone photos, recently reached profits of a billion dollars. Perhaps he can drum up a new endorsement deal with the company or even a mobile phone company if Wrangler abandons Favre. However, as long as the public believes that Grandpa Brett has learnt his lesson, his endorsement deals will continue to be a success.