NCAA Uses Its Amateur Athletes To Sell Pontiacs

USA Today: Critics say a popular website — the Pontiac Game Changing Performance poll — puts the NCAA dangerously close to violating its own rules, as well as the rights of athletes for use of their image and name for commercial purposes.
“This is a line they have never crossed before,” said Peter Rush, a Chicago lawyer who unsuccessfully battled the NCAA last year over whether former Colorado football player and U.S. Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom could receive ski-related endorsement money and maintain his college eligibility. “The real question is what right do they have to use players’ images to sell Pontiacs?”
“I would disagree that players are being used to bring people to a commercial promotion,” said Wendy Walters, an NCAA spokeswoman. “The promotion is an NCAA Football promotion so coming to the website gets you involved in NCAA Football. I will concede that it is sponsored by Pontiac. But it is not a commercial promotion.”
B. David Ridpath, a former Marshall compliance officer and now a Mississippi State sports management professor, characterized the promotion as the continuing erosion of amateurism in college athletics. Ridpath also contends this illustrates how the NCAA will interpret or change rules to serve its own purposes.
“Amateurism is dead — that train left a long time ago,” Ridpath said. “But if we are going to continue to stretch the amateurism principle and rationalize using college athletes as unpaid endorsers of commercial products and cheap labor, then we need to decide to either pay them or let them participate as professionals who can accept endorsement money.”



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.