The reverberations from the Michael Phelps bong photo continue. Kellogg cereal company's refusal to renew the Olympic gold medalist's endorsement contract led to calls from drug reformers and others to boycott Kellogg.
It is unclear what kind of traction, if any, the boycott is getting, but one web site that measures companies' reputations is reporting that Kellogg has been in a slide since it dumped the bong-holding swimmer. Vanno: The Company Reputation Index had Kellogg ranked ninth out of some 5,600 companies it lists before it dumped Phelps. Now, two weeks later, Kellogg has declined to number 84.
The Phelps affair wasn't the only thing affecting Kellogg's reputation early this year. The food giant also suffered negative publicity from the tainted peanut butter scandal. But Kellogg's rank only declined from ninth to sixteenth before it dumped Phelps; since then, the decline has been steep and rapid.
Measuring corporate reputations is an inexact science, and Vanno's method, while showing trends, is not precise. Vanno creates its rankings from real-time surveys on its web site filtered through a Bayesian algorithm, similar to those used in spam filters and to spot credit card fraud. Still, the rapid decline in Kellogg's ranking suggests that its 1950s-style response to an Olympic pot smoker has hurt the company.