Bloomberg News

Half-Dozen Advertisers Are Said to Drop Penn State Game on ESPN

November 15, 2011

Nov. 12 (Bloomberg) -- About six advertisers including Cars.com dropped out of today’s Penn State University football game that will air on Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The ads for the game with the University of Nebraska have been moved to other ESPN programming in the wake of the child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. The person declined to name the advertisers.

Cars.com, the online auto retailer, said it withdrew its sponsorship of Penn State games this weekend against Nebraska and next weekend against Ohio State, citing allegations a former coach molested children. The TV ads will be moved to other ESPN programming, Cars.com said yesterday in a statement.

“It’s important to us that we’re building our brand in a way that celebrates the sport, its fans and the dedication of its student athletes,” Cars.com, part of the newspaper partnership Classified Ventures, said. “ESPN is a valuable media partner, and the overall scope of our investment with the network, including our support of other programming and advertising on ESPN’s digital assets, hasn’t changed.”

General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet, which doesn’t air broadcast ads for Penn State games, will continue a sponsorship that involves on-site promotions and stadium billboards for the “near term,” said Cristi Vazquez, a spokeswoman for the unit.

“Obviously, we are looking at that going forward,” Vazquez said said in a telephone interview.

Highmark Inc., a Pittsburgh-based non-profit provider of health insurance, will keep its ads on the air, Aaron Billger, a spokesman, said in a telephone interview. He declined to comment further.

‘Sports and Entertainment’

Deutsch Inc., a media buyer in New York, is monitoring the situation at Penn State for its clients, Peter Gardiner, chief media officer, said in an interview. None of the firm’s customers have pulled ads from this weekend’s game, he said.

College football fans are still likely to watch the game, Penn State’s last home appearance of the season, Gardiner said.

“The game, to me, that’s sports and entertainment,” Gardiner said. “We haven’t had any clients raise questions about it.”

Some advertisers are asking ESPN to avoid running their commercials near any discussion of the scandal, according to The Wall Street Journal, which yesterday reported the advertiser decisions.

Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, 67, was charged with the sexual assault of eight boys from 1994 to 2009. Athletic Director Tim Curley, 57, and Senior Vice President Gary Schultz, 62, were charged with perjury and failure to report the allegations.

The scandal led Penn State’s trustees to fire university President Graham B. Spanier and Joe Paterno, the coach with the most wins in major college football history.

--Editors: Anthony Palazzo, Stephen West

To contact the reporters on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net; Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net


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