Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps' errant bong hit may have cost him his sponsorship contract with Kellogg Co. but Activision doesn't seem too concerned about it, saying there are no plans to pull the Guitar Hero ad in which he appears.
A furor erupted last week when a photo of the wealthy, famous 23-year-old Phelps indulging in the evil weed was made public. The 14-time Olympic champion, a hero to millions around the world for his ability to swim really fast, expressed regret for his actions but Kellogg nonetheless said it would not renew his contract when it expires at the end of February because his behavior is "not consistent with [its] image." He was also suspended from competitive swimming for three months by USA Swimming despite the fact that he didn't actually violate any anti-doping rules, and the sheriff's office in Richland County, South Carolina, said it had launched an investigation into whether Phelps had actually taken a toke while at the University of South Carolina, where the marijuana smoking allegedly took place, and that it would file criminal charges if it was determined that he had.
None of which seems to bother Activision too much: The company said that while the ad campaign featuring Phelps and other athletes is nearing its conclusion, there are no plans to withdraw it early as a result of his actions. Unlike products from Kellogg, the Guitar Hero franchise is unlikely to suffer any sales losses by including an occasional pot smoker in its ads, noted sports business consultant Marc Ganis."The target market for Guitar Hero is younger counterculture youth for whom this kind of behavior is not considered very negative," he added.
The Guitar Hero spot in question was one of several Risky Business-style ads created to promote Activision's hit music game. In this one, Phelps appears alongside admitted steroid cheat Alex Rodriguez, accused rapist Kobe Bryant and Tony Hawk, who hasn't actually been caught doing anything wrong yet.