Roddick's U.S. Open exit leaves AmEx scrambling

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Andy Roddick couldn't find his mojo-and that's bad news for American Express.

The third-ranked tennis player was the centerpiece of AmEx's $7 million to $10 million campaign around the U.S. Open. But he was bounced out of the event in the first round, leaving the marketer and its agency, Ogilvy & Mather, scrambling to retool the work, and underlining one of the classic perils of backing a sports star.

The "Have You Seen Andy's Mojo?" campaign was a humorous look at his cowboy-hat-wearing alter ego-or "mojo"-who was out partying in New York City, thanks to his American Express card, while the real Roddick was preparing for the U.S. Open. It also, of course, was a quirky way of suggesting that Roddick would need a little mojo-or magic power-to overcome the world No. 1, Roger Federer, who has become his tormentor.

But Roddick didn't get a shot at Federer. In fact he didn't get a shot at the second round, going out in a surprise opening round defeat against 68th-ranked Gilles Mueller of Luxembourg. His exit left AmEx and Ogilvy scrambling to tweak the comprehensive TV, print and Internet campaign, which was going to develop throughout the tournament.

A SHIFT

"We've made some adjustments already, primarily on television," said American Express spokeswoman Judy Tenzer, who didn't elaborate. "Some of the other changes were merely shifting insertions. The story will continue."

The story may continue, and Mr. Roddick's loss might even draw more attention to the failed campaign, but it nonetheless typifies the inherent dangers of working in such a fluid environment as sports.

"This is the chance you take any time you bet on an individual sport," said Ryan Schinman, president of Platinum Rye Entertainment, one of the biggest brokers of branded-entertainment deals and one of the top companies for matching athletes with endorsers. "When you pour millions of dollars into a campaign around your biggest U.S. sports property and around `your guy,' it's a major disappointment."

Mr. Schinman said he didn't think Mr. Roddick's loss would hurt American Express, but quickly added, "They portray a superior lifestyle. It's hard when a star in one of your arenas washes out right away."

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