Late in the Italy-Uruguay World Cup group stage match, star striker Luis Suarez appeared to bite Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. Suarez has claimed Chiellini thrust his shoulder into him while the media have widely circulated a picture showing teeth-like marks on Chiellini’s shoulder. FIFA have yet to make a ruling, but will make a decision before Uruguay’s match against Colombia on Saturday.
888 Poker released a statement and are reviewing its relationship with Suarez. A little over a month ago, he signed a contract with 888 Poker, which along with his $75 million dollar contract with Liverpool FC, made him one of the highest paid soccer players. Suarez is also featured in ads for Adidas and Beats by Dre. Adidas has uncharacteristically responded to the controversy by speaking out against Suarez. Normally sponsors avoid any criticism of their players and will even support them, such as how Standard Chartered insisted on “change of approach” when Suarez used a racial slur against Patrice Evra.
Brands have not been on Suarez’s side. Bud Light, Listerine, Nando’s, Peperami, Snickers and the Uruguayan division of McDonald’s all posted satirical anti-Suarez ads. The NewStatesman calculated that getting bit by Suarez during a soccer game is more likely than getting bitten by a shark, struck by lightening, killed by firearm in the U.S., or hit by an asteroid. The good news is that you have more of a chance of Mike Tyson biting off your ear in a boxing match than Suarez in a soccer game.
Professional athletes are not immune to controversy, but most recover, and Liverpool is standing by its star striker. Barcelona is prepared to offer both Pedro and Alexis Sanchez, whose value totals $82.9 million dollars, plus cash to Liverpool for Suarez. According to David M. Spencer, Founder of Talent Resources’ Sports:
This isn’t the first time Suarez has bitten someone he did it in 2010 and 2013 and he racially abused Patrice Evra in 2011. . . But he still rose to stardom. He will take some flak for this but he’s simply too good for his value to drop. I’m sure it may effect his marketability depending on the brand but for some this increases his marketability because of the amount of press’s he is garnering at the moment.
In a Bloomberg interview, Paul Swinand, an analyst at Morningstar, stated that Suarez’s latest actions would not hurt Adidas’ revenue, “except possibly in Italy.” Even if Adidas drops him, Nike, Puma and Under Armour are waiting. In spite of the negative publicity, a maximum 24-game ban under FIFA and expulsion from the World Cup, Suarez’s career 220 goals in 363 appearances count the most. As Spencer and Swinand note, throughout his career Suarez has proven he has the talent to be one of the best and he will be continue to be a marketable presence despite his lapses in character.