The Business of Sports Reckons with Domestic Violence Off the Field

Wharton’s Americus Reed and Abraham J. Wyner explain how athletes’ endorsement contracts might be more relevant than their sports performance, and how all are at stake when allegations of misconduct arise in Penn Today.

October 14, 2021

During the U.S. Open last month, an ad for Rolex ran throughout commercial breaks showing a montage of top-ranked tennis players. One player featured was 24-year-old Alexander (Sascha) Zverev, a German player ranked fourth in the world. To some, Zverev’s role as one of Rolex’s brand ambassadors is controversial. In 2020, Zverev was publicly accused of domestic assault by his then-girlfriend, Olya Sharypova, throughout 2019 that included both physical and emotional abuse. Sharypova came forward with her story as a warning to other people with abusive partners, and hopeful that the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) would address the issue.

According to Wharton’s Abraham J. Wyner, chair of the undergraduate program in statistics at the Wharton School and faculty lead for the Wharton Sports Analytics and Business Initiative, professional sports and players’ private lives have a complicated history. And for brands that have contracts with athletes, there is a playbook to protect the brand. Americus Reed, the Whitney M. Young Jr. Professor of Marketing, reveals how brands address the damage caused when an athlete’s bad behavior is exposed.