Minutes after Ben Roethlisberger called the sexual assault allegations against him “false and vicious,” and that he would fight the civil suit, those watching on ESPN might have seen a commercial starring the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback.
The spot, which can be seen below, features Roethlisberger ducking defensive players and throwing them around.
That spot, which was shot three weeks ago and started airing this week will continue to run, Dick’s Sporting Goods chief marketing officer Jeff Hennion told CNBC.
“Our view is that this is a judicial process and we’ll let this play out,” Hennion said. “Ben has always been a great spokesman for us and until something in the legal arena has changed, we will continue with this campaign.”
Dick’s catalogue called “Game On,” which came out this week, has Roethlisberger - who led his team to the Super Bowl title this past season - on the cover of one of the versions. Roethlisberger’s presence in Dick’s stores on point of purchase materials will also not change.
After allegations have been leveled in the past, many companies have pulled running spots.
The greatest parallel might be Kobe Bryant, whose Sprite commercials were phased out when he was charged with sexual assault six years ago.
Other companies, including Nutella and Spalding let their contracts with Bryant expire and never featured him again.
If there's any difference here, it's that - unlike Bryant's case - no criminal charges have been filed. Bryant’s civil case was settled and criminal charges were eventually dropped. Nike stood by Bryant, although they did so quietly by not releasing a signature shoe with his name for years after.
The Dick’s Sporting Goods spot is for Nike’s Air Marauder D cleat, as Roethlisberger is also a Nike spokesman.
“Ben Roethlisberger has been a longtime Nike athlete and continues to be part of our roster,” said Nike spokesman Derek Kent. “As has been our policy, we decline to comment on pending legal matters.”
Hennion said the spot is scheduled to run in heavy rotation throughout this weekend, especially on ESPN, where Dick’s Sporting Goods recently became the sponsor for the network’s college football kickoff week. The company is also sponsoring the Cowboy Classic game between BYU and Oklahoma that will be played on Sept. 5 at the new Texas Stadium.
The Air Marauder D cleat is a big push for Dick’s as it’s exclusive to the chain of over 400 stores.
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