Michael Pavitt

Aside from the daily updates on whether North Korea will compete at Pyeongchang 2018, one of the main Winter Olympic storylines this week has surrounded the American trials for a variety of sports, particularly the figure skating.

In one of the major shocks, Sochi 2014 team bronze medallist Ashley Wagner failed to qualify for the Games. Having finished fourth in the US Figure Skating Championships, which acted as the national trials, she described herself as "furious" with the scores awarded to her by the judges.

Wagner, who has been put down as the first alternate, did offer her congratulations to Brandie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen after the trio secured their places.

"As an athlete, I'm allowed to be mad," she tweeted. "As a senior competitor with over 10 years of experience, I'm allowed to question things. At the end of the day, I laid out my best and I'm going home proud! Congrats to the lovely ladies of the team, you've got me in your cheering squad now!"

Amid the fall-out, it has been pointed out that Wagner is one of the most commercially backed athletes to miss out on the Games so far, with the 2016 World Championship silver medallist boasting an assortment of endorsement deals.

The most notable of which are with Toyota and Bridgestone, with the latter having launched an advertising campaign in November with the skater, which centered around the idea of "clutch performance".

While the skater will be more concerned with having not qualified for the Games, she could certainly find herself out of pocket as well.

The Mirror sponsored the soles of Julius Francis' boots in expectation they would be exposed ©Getty Images
The Mirror sponsored the soles of Julius Francis' boots in expectation they would be exposed ©Getty Images

Wagner would certainly not be the first athlete to find themselves in that position. History is littered with athletes whose endorsements have been impacted in some way by either their performances or off-the-field activities.

Prior to the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics, Bode Miller found his endorsements at risk following comments he made to a television programme about skiing while "wasted". Having apologised for his comments about skiing under the influence of alcohol, the pressure the American found himself under may have partly had an impact on him missing out on earning a medal at the Games.

Looking back, Miller probably could have found himself fortunate to have kept his sponsorship deals at the time. Particularly when you consider American swimmer Ryan Lochte was dropped by many companies following worldwide criticism of his drunken actions at Rio 2016.

Lochte was among four United States swimmers who initially claimed they had been robbed at gunpoint when returning to the Olympic Village, before closed circuit television footage emerged of the men vandalising a petrol station following a night out. After the six-time Olympic medallist admitted he "over-exaggerated" the claims, four sponsors quickly parted company.

While there were perhaps typical sponsors in the form of swimwear and fashion giants Speedo and Ralph Lauren, there were also the more rogue deals with Gentle Hair Removal and mattress company Airweave which prompted some head-scratching.

By contrast, there have also been cases when endorsements have been given in case the athlete has a disaster. British heavyweight boxer Julius Francis was paid around £20,000 ($27,000/€22,000) in the build-up to his fight against Mike Tyson back in 2000. As the clear underdog for the fight, The Mirror paid Francis the sum to place their logo on the soles of Francis' boots. The indication being that Francis would be knocked out by Tyson, which would result in the soles becoming exposed.

Naturally, the newspaper received publicity merely for striking the partnership. They also received exposure when Francis was knocked to the canvas on five occasions in a demolition.

Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner was given a one match ban after exposing underpants promoting a sponsor ©Getty Images
Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner was given a one match ban after exposing underpants promoting a sponsor ©Getty Images

A similar sponsorship was reportedly offered to another British heavyweight, Dereck Chisora, with the boxer claiming he turned down a £70,000 ($95,000/€79,000) offer from a boot sponsor in the build-up to his fight with Vitali Klitschko back in 2012.

Members of the England football team also thrived off their inability to take penalties in a famous Pizza Hut advert, following Euro 1996. It featured current England manager Gareth Southgate with a brown paper bag over his head, following his penalty miss in the semi-final shoot-out loss to Germany. Thanks to the encouragement of the pizza as well as from Chris Waddle and Stuart Pearce, who missed penalties in England's Italia 90 loss to Germany, Southgate was convinced to remove the bag.

Football has been notorious for a run of bizarre endorsements, with bookmakers having contributed considerably. There was the bizarre case involving Denmark's Nicklas Bendtner at Euro 2012. Largely viewed as a figure of fun in Britain, the striker produced some rare brilliance when scoring twice against Portugal, but garnered headlines for another reason when he pulled down his shorts to real "lucky underpants" which promoted Paddy Power.

Having violated advertising rules, Bendtner received a fine and a one match ban by Europe's governing body UEFA. The bookmaker ultimately opted to pay the forward's fine, with the company having been boosted by the ambush marketing.

The company also admitted it was their idea to back an ill-fated campaign from former Tottenham and Newcastle winger David Ginola to run against Sepp Blatter for the FIFA Presidency back in 2015. They opted to pay the Frenchman £250,000 ($339,000/€282,000) for the campaign, which lasted only a matter of weeks.

Ginola was very marketable during his playing days, with former team-mates admitting he used to bring in boxes of free sunglasses, while he also became famed for being "worth it" when appearing in adverts for shampoo company L'Oreal.

Shampoo has become increasingly advertised by sporting stars, with Alpecin - the German caffeine shampoo - recently sponsoring an International Cycling Union WorldTour team. They were also fortunate to boost a marketable star in Marcel Kittel, with the German now almost as famous for his hair as his sprint successes at some of the sport's biggest races.

More recently, Slovakian health food company Sun-Root have enjoyed the use of the charismatic three-time world road race champion Peter Sagan. Arguably cycling's biggest star, Sagan has dressed up and acted in parodies of Grease, Rocky and Gladiator to help promote their products. In the build-up to Christmas, he could be found riding a bike attached to a coffee cart.

With team names having also been tied to sponsorships, there have been a wide variety over the years, ranging from deals with banks and electronics companies to holiday and flooring firms. Arguably one of the worst was the Linda McCartney Racing Team, a British based squad sponsored by Linda McCartney Foods, maker of vegetarian products. It was hoped any success enjoyed by the team, which proved short-lived, would promote vegetarianism.

Regardless of whether sponsorships can prove slightly embarrassing, such as naming your stadium the Bargain Booze Arena or KitKat Crescent, there is no doubt that teams and athletes will relish any opportunity to secure endorsements to boost their chances of success.

However, with any deal, there is always the risk you might fail to meet expectations.