Is it OK for ESPN reporter Erin Andrews to endorse Reebok?
The press release announcing her role mentioned Andrews’ work as “an ESPN sports broadcaster, a Good Morning America correspondent, and a Dancing With the Stars finalist.
Andrew featured Reebok in her Twitter profile picture Jan. 26, but interestingly, her photo was changed by Jan. 27 at 10 PM EST — within days of a report by the Oregonian suggesting a conflict of interest in Andrews’ endorsement.
The Oregonian detailed the suggestion of a conflict of interest, noting that the Jan. 14 announcement of Andrews’ sponsorship came just two weeks after Andrews criticized Reebok competitor Nike on-air.
“If you cover the sports equipment and apparel industry, like I do, you’re slightly agog at the endorsement. Because just about two weeks earlier, Andrews gave an on-air report that delivered a hit on one of Reebok’s chief competitors, Nike,” The Oregonian reported.
According to The Oregonian:
“Andrews reported that TCU players were having problems slipping on the Rose Bowl turf because of new Nike shoes they were wearing. She went on to say that TCU did not have backup cleats. Many of the TCU players were wearing the ‘Zoom Alpha Talon Cleat.'”
According to USA Today, ESPN doesn’t view Andrews’ spokesperson role as a conflict of interest if she interviews fellow Reebok spokespeople. “It’s rare she would cover stories involving shoes in her role,” USA Today reported that ESPN’s Josh Krulewitz stated. “With that said, if something relevant comes up, she would disclose her Reebok connection.”
StinkyJournalism wrote to ESPN asking when Andrews officially became a Reebok spokesperson, when the negotiations began, if ESPN approved the endorsement prior to the endorsement announcement, what ESPN’s rules are for reporters/commentators/hosts becoming spokespeople and if ESPN had any comment to the Oregonian’s report about Andrews’ endorsement — specifically that Andrews’ reportedly commented negatively about a Nike shoe just two weeks before being announced spokesperson for Reebok.
ESPN’s Josh Krulewitz responded to StinkyJournalism:
“If you’ve seen that story you have our overall comment, which is ‘It’s rare she would cover stories involving shoes in her role. With that said, if something relevant comes up, she would disclose her Reebok connection.’
“I would also say going forward – ‘We are confident in Erin’s reporting ability and journalistic role. If an instance of inherent conflict arises, we would obviously be transparent with the audience.'”
Journalism ethicist Kelly McBride from the Poynter Institute reportedly criticized journalists making endorsements. She is quoted as saying:
“Journalists can review products. But they can’t take money from a company to endorse them. That totally ruins their credibility. The example you give is a good one. But think about any type of journalist, like a tech reporter or health reporter. If those reporters were getting paid to endorse mp3 players or cholesterol drugs, no one in the audience would trust their judgment, because their independence would be compromised.”
Andrews said: “I’m very excited to be the first female to become part of Reebok’s ZigTech campaign, joining superstars like Peyton Manning, Sidney Crosby, John Wall, Chad Ochocinco, and many more.”