One beer was all it took for a Nov. 19 game between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers, to turn ugly. After hard fouls were exchanged late in the game, a fan threw a cup of beer at Pacers' Ron Artest, causing him (and several teammates) to charge the stands. While NBA corporate partners remain, the brawl was a jolt to athletes' individual endorsements.
2. NFL EMBARRASSMENT, EARLY 2004
You were living under a rock if you missed Janet Jackson's, er, "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl. CBS was fined for the incident, and the NFL initially swore off any ties to the music business. While it later relented to host concerts for its 2004 Kickoff Weekend, it made sure it maintained total control.
3. NFL EMBARRASSMENT, LATE 2004
"Monday Night Football" in November featured a promo for "Desperate Housewives." Nicollette Sheridan, clad only in a towel that she later dropped, gave a hard sell to Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens before jumping into his arms. The NFL was chagrined, ABC chastened, and some, including Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, said it bordered on racism.
4. BASEBALL'S STEROID PROBLEM
Now we know why baseball stars Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi are so buff. In December, secret testimony leaked that Giambi said he used steroids and Bonds admitted he used a cream and another substance, but didn't know they were steroids. A possible season-long campaign to honor Bonds' pursuit of the home run record, which would have included MasterCard, has been squashed.
5. U.S. OLYMPIC BASKETBALL TEAM WOES
It was assumed that the U.S. and the NBA would win gold in Athens. Bad assumption. The U.S. Olympic team turned in a miserable performance, barely winning a bronze medal and turning off so many Americans with selfish play that many, in turn, turned off NBC's coverage.
6. KOBE BRYANT'S TRIALS
Accused of sexual assault in the summer of 2003, many of Bryant's pretrial and trial proceedings took place this year. By that time, marketers McDonald's and Coca-Cola had already dropped him as an endorser. While criminal charges were eventually dropped, Bryant still faces a civil suit.
7. NHL SEASON POSTPONED
By year's end, the league and the NHL Players Association were in 11th hour negotiations in an effort to save the season after three months of games had been wiped away by a labor impasse. Also wiped away: $400 million in advertising revenue.
8. MICHAEL PHELPS CHARGED WITH DUI
The winner of eight swimming medals in the Olympics delivered for marketers Visa and Speedo swimwear. But two months after the Games ended, Phelps, only 19, was pulled over and charged with driving under the influence. His sponsors all said they would stick with the swimming sensation, and Phelps has hit the talk-show circuit to spread the word about his mistake.
9. JOCKEYS JOCKEY FOR ADS
Jockeys took their case for sewing advertisement patches on their jerseys all the way to court, where a federal judge ruled in their favor. When the Kentucky Derby aired in May, Triple Crown sponsor Visa had some company. At least 11 of the 18 jockeys wore some kind of patch.
10. YAO MING EXPLODES ON TEAMMATES
It's quite likely that the hearts of executives at both NBC and Reebok stopped beating when NBA star Yao Ming yelled at his teammates and coach of the Chinese national team during an Olympic game against Spain. Yao apologized, but for several hours the NBA and Reebok were keeping their fingers crossed that the Chinese government wouldn't revoke his passport.