CHICAGO (Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc said on Wednesday it is ending its endorsement relationship with English soccer star David Beckham after 10 years in a move described as mutual by both sides.
“We wish David well with the many projects he is pursuing and look forward to the possibility of partnering together with him again someday,” the soft drink maker said in a statement.
Beckham, who plays for the Major League Soccer (MLS) team Los Angeles Galaxy but is on loan to AC Milan in Italy, said he had nothing but good memories of his years pitching Pepsi.
“I hope everyone who has seen the work Pepsi and I have done together enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed making it and, who knows, there may yet be another chapter in this long relationship,” he said in a statement.
The U.S. recession has caused the National Football League and National Basketball Association to cut jobs. Major League Baseball has frozen budgets, while the Arena Football League to cancel its 2009 season.
While Beckham’s signing two years ago raised public awareness of the MLS, his tenure has been marred by injury and poor performance by the Galaxy, and TV ratings for the U.S. sports league remain stagnant.
Beckham was meant to elevate soccer to a higher status when he signed a five-year deal worth up to $250 million, but some analysts have said the MLS will never be more than a minor player on the U.S. sports landscape.
Corporate sponsors and advertisers have not been spared either with many reducing spending.
General Motors Corp has slashed promotional spending, including the decision to stop airing ads during the NFL’s Super Bowl championship game in February. The struggling automaker also said about a month ago it would end its endorsement deal a year early with popular pro golfer Tiger Woods at the end of December.
Terms of Beckham’s deal were not disclosed, but Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper said the contract was worth 2 million pounds ($2.9 million) a year. Beckham, 33, touted Pepsi in commercials over the years dressed as a cowboy, a surfer and a gladiator.
In October, Pepsi, which makes Pepsi-Cola drinks, Frito-Lay snacks and Quaker foods, posted a weaker-than-expected third-quarter profit and cut its full-year outlook, underscoring the impact of the economic slowdown on beverage sales, especially of bottled water.
It also said at that time it would cut 3,300 jobs, or about 1.8 percent of its work force, as part of a plan to save more than $1.2 billion over three years.
In past years, other Pepsi celebrity pitchmen have included pop stars Michael Jackson and Britney Spears.
Reporting by Ben Klayman, editing by Dave Zimmerman