"Time heals a lot of marketing wounds," said the director of the University of Southern California's Sports Business Institute. In June 2003, basketball star Kobe Bryant signed a four-year, $45 million endorsement deal with shoe company Nike. Weeks later, Bryant was accused of sexual assault. Now that the criminal case has been dismissed and a related civil lawsuit settled, "Nike and Mr. Bryant are slowly relaunching the star's career as a product endorser." But even while Bryant's legal problems abounded, Nike had "an under-the-radar campaign intended to keep the star's cachet high among shoe collectors and other taste makers." That included limited releases of shoes "customized for Mr. Bryant that landed in upscale sneaker boutiques," raffles of shoes with Bryant's signature, and others with his personal logo, a "dagger-like etching." While "traditional consumer-product companies" are staying away from Bryant, Nike "recently rolled out its first Kobe print campaign."
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