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Top 10 Times Advertisers Bailed

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Trevor Fonvergne Sometimes we come to regret our decisions and these companies sure did. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Times Advertisers Bailed. For this list, we're looking at situations where advertisers pulled ads from television programs or sponsors abandoned spokespeople due to a scandal or controversy. Special thanks to our user akt for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Trevor Fonvergne

Top 10 Times Advertisers Bailed

Sometimes we come to regret our decisions and these companies sure did. Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Times Advertisers Bailed.

For this list, we’re looking at situations where advertisers pulled ads from television programs or sponsors abandoned spokespeople due to a scandal or controversy.

#10: Paula Deen & Casual Racism

In 2013, it came to light that celebrity chef Paula Deen had casually made use of racial epithets, including, but not limited to, the N-word. Things just got worse from there for the Georgia native when it was alleged that she considered a wedding for her brother with exclusively black waiters, and also commonly made sexist jokes. In response, companies like Walmart, Target, QVC and Sears pulled ads and she was dropped entirely from the Food Network. Did she learn her lesson? Well, two years later, a photo surfaced of her in a costume with her son in “brownface.” Yikes.

#9: Magic Johnson & HIV

Talk about rubbing salt into a wound. It was a pretty big deal in the ‘90s when Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson revealed to the public that he had contracted HIV. Rumors ensued that he was gay or bisexual, though he denied both claims. Though many saw his announcement as heroic, various sponsors, including Pepsi and Nestle, dropped him as a spokesperson. Things ultimately worked out for him, though, as he was praised for his bravery, was called a hero by George H. W. Bush and even returned to basketball as a coach and player.

#8: Kate Moss & Cocaine Scandal

Swedish fashion retailer H&M dropped this English model after photographs surfaced of her using cocaine. In 2005, British tabloid The Daily Mirror published an expose featuring one of the photos and dubbed her “Cocaine Kate.” Chanel also decided not to renew her contract, though they said it had nothing to do with the scandal, while Burberry dropped their current campaign with the model. Designer Alexander McQueen showed his support for Moss by wearing a shirt reading “We love you, Kate.” Moss’ career survived the controversy as she was able to continue modeling after British police dropped the charges against her.

#7: Michael Phelps & Bong-gate

When photos of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps allegedly smoking marijuana out of a bong at a party came to light a year after he made headlines with his sports achievements, he faced huge backlash - including the loss of Kellogg’s as a sponsor. Additionally, USA Swimming, the governing body for American competitive swimming, suspended the world record holder for three months. He later announced that he no longer used drugs, and was still allowed to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics, where he won another four gold medals, bringing his gold medal total to eighteen.

#6: Madonna & ‘Like a Prayer’ Music Video

No stranger to controversy, Madonna’s 1989 music video for “Like a Prayer” proved to be the start of another big one for the Queen of Pop. Many religious groups protested the music video for its use of racial and sexual themes alongside Christian imagery. In fact, the Pope himself encouraged Catholics to boycott her Italian concerts. After pressure from protesters, Pepsi eventually caved into their demands and stopped airing an ad that featured the song. The corporation was so eager to distance themselves from the video that they let Madonna keep her $5 million advance.

#5: ‘Three’s Company’ & Sexual Content

Premiering in 1977, “Three’s Company” was a sitcom that involved two females who lived with a male who pretended to be gay to make their living situation acceptable to their landlord. Some accused the show of being too racy, which caused Sears to withdraw ads and encourage other companies to do the same. The decision was criticized by many in the industry, claiming it was wrong for Sears to spread their opinion of what should and shouldn’t be on TV. The TV series would last for 8 seasons and even won two Golden Globes and an Emmy.

#4: World Wrestling Federation & the Raunch Factor

In 1999, the World Wrestling Federation, now known as World Wrestling Entertainment or the WWE, ran into some trouble with advertisers. Coke, Wrigley and the U.S. Army either ended sponsorship deals or pulled ads from the controversial “Smackdown” program due to its language, violence, and sexual content. In response, the entertainment company agreed to tone down some of the show’s material, and the sports series is still currently running.

#3: ‘19 Kids and Counting’ & Molestation Scandal

The most recent scandal on our list involves Josh Duggar, the eldest son of the titular “19 Kids and Counting” on TLC, and the revelation that when he was between 14-15 years old, he inappropriately touched five girls, including four of his sisters. When this became public, TLC pulled reruns of the show, and over twenty advertisers, including Walgreens, Pizza Hut, and Crayola, dropped their ads from the reality TV series. After a few months of deliberating, the show was ultimately cancelled, and that resulted in an estimated $25 million loss to the network.

#2: Tiger Woods & Infidelity Scandal

In 2009, professional golfer Tiger Woods became the subject of much media scrutiny after reports of a car accident surfaced, during which his wife Elin Nordegren helped him from his SUV. Soon enough, the bizarre story became a little clearer when rumors of his alleged infidelities emerged. Over the course of a few months, many companies dropped sponsorship and advertising deals, including Gatorade, Gillette, AT&T and General Motors. The total shareholder loss from Woods’ affairs scandal is estimated to be between $5 billion and $12 billion. The couple divorced in 2010 and Woods’ career hasn’t been the same since.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- ‘The View’ Co-Hosts Mock Nurses; Loses Ads from Johnson & Johnson & Others
- Whoopi Goldberg Makes George W. Bush Sex Joke; Dropped by Slim-Fast
- O.J. Simpson Charged with Double Murder; Loses Wilson Sporting Goods & Treesweet Orange Juice Endorsements
- Lance Armstrong Faces Doping Allegations; Nike & More Drop Support & Sponsorships

#1: Bill Maher & ‘Cowardly’ America

Less than a week after the events of September 11th, 2001, Bill Maher made one of the most controversial statements of his career on his show “Politically Incorrect.” When he called his own country “cowardly,” the backlash was huge, and cost the pundit various advertisers, including FedEx and Sears. Despite issuing several apologies for the statement, the program never recovered and was ultimately cancelled in mid-2002, and Maher credited its ultimate demise to a struggle to find advertisers in the aftermath of the controversy. He has since begun an HBO program called “Real Time with Bill Maher,” but in the end, it seems “Politically Incorrect” was destined to live up to its name.

Do you agree with our list? What do you think is the biggest controversy surrounding advertisers and sponsors? For more scandalous top tens published every day, be sure to subscribe to

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