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Puma Tears Up Pact With Aaron Hernandez

Boston Herald, June 28, 2013

By Donna Goodison

Puma became the latest company to announce it was ending its endorsement deal with former New England Patriots tight end and accused killer Aaron Hernandez, offering only a terse statement yesterday.

“Puma has ended the relationship with athlete Aaron Hernandez in light of the current situation,” spokeswoman Katie Sheptyck said via email. The athletic gear brand wouldn’t comment on the timing of its decision.

Hernandez was charged Wednesday with the murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player from Dorchester.

Germany’s Puma, whose North American headquarters is in Westford, announced a two-year deal with Hernandez in April and said he would be a face of its men’s training category. At the time, it said the relationship would focus on the “unexpected and highlight his life off of the field.”

Investigators had been probing ties between Hernandez and Lloyd’s murder since June 17. Sports nutrition company CytoSport ended its deal with Hernandez three days later. But Puma was mum until yesterday, when it issued an email just after 3:30 p.m. Sheptyck said the decision only had been made within a half-hour of her email.

“There are some crisis management specialists who will say come right out, be extremely proactive,” Suffolk University sports marketing professor Catherine McCabe said. “Others will say, wait and make sure you have a really good strategy ... You can’t wait too long … regardless of your approach.”

Hernandez was to be featured in Puma’s “Nature of Performance” campaign.

It’s difficult to gauge the deal’s worth, said Jim Andrews of Chicago sponsorship consulting firm IEG.

“My best guess ... would probably be something in the low six figures,” he said.

Andrews wasn’t surprised Puma didn’t announce sooner it was cutting ties with Hernandez. “What usually happens with big companies is they want to make sure legally they’re doing everything the right way,” he said. “They probably knew they wanted to terminate the agreement as early as last week when this whole thing blew up in the media.”