Since we’re in October, it is most appropriate to open this post with some memorable words from New York Yankees great, Yogi Berra. “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Although this time, the quote isn’t referring to back-to-back bombs by Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
Last week, the National Football League opened an investigation into Minnesota Vikings quarterback (and NFL darling) Brett Favre due to allegations of improper conduct with New York Jets “Gameday” host Jenn Sterger. And by alleged improper conduct, I mean lewd voicemails and good old-fashioned “sexting.” And by déjà vu, I wonder if this seemingly innocuous investigation will unravel into Tiger 2.0.
Now that we’ve had the opportunity to see what happens when an iconic athlete becomes thoroughly embroiled in a major sex scandal, I wonder about the Favre brand and his reputation. Aside from his notorious waffling about retirement and a one-season aberration with the New York Jets, we know Favre as the most decorated quarterback in the history of the NFL. He holds dozens of records and could fill a Super Wal-Mart with trophies, plaques and other accolades. Sounds almost Tiger-iffic, right?
Favre needs to navigate the next few moves with the same care and precision he brings to the two-minute drill. Three years ago, we watched another prolific NFL QB, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, as he grappled with a public break-up and pregnancy with his ex, Bridget Moynihan. He decided to stay mum as long as possible. So quiet, that a friend of mine was quoted in the Boston Globe, as saying, “the Tom Brady brand is at stake if the QB stays quiet much longer.”
For Favre, “Sext-Gate” is less about quiet and more about action and honesty. He cannot allow this issue to evolve into a Tiger-like deluge of infidelity, shrouded in secrecy. Hopefully, Ms. Sterger is the only one because America isn’t ready for another mistress parade and Favre’s image cannot sustain the damage. Aside from the obvious toxicity to his marriage, this issue threatens his reputation as a football hero as well as his financial bottom line.
As professional athletes and pitchmen, their reputations are much more than just an image. Reputation represents both their brand and future economic vitality. We watched as Tiger lost millions in advertising and sponsorship contracts. Favre stands to lose as well, as he serves as a spokesperson for wholesome brands like Sears, Hyundai, and Wrangler.
Now, I realize that Mr. Favre is as human as everyone else and thus prone to err. However, the difference here is that he is capitalizing on his personal reputation, a distinction that raises the bar considerably. Much like a Fortune 500 company, Brett Favre must treat his reputation as his most valuable asset and refrain from any activity that poses a threat. That means limiting all of his passes to the gridiron. He might consider dropping his wireless data plan as well.