Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2000-1

Advisory Opinion No. 2000-1
Advisory Opinion No. 2000-1

Coca-Cola Marketing Efforts Utilizing Coach Jim Calhoun In Conjunction
With The UCONN Name Or Logo

Attorneys Gerald and Peter Roisman, representing UCONN Coach Jim Calhoun, have asked the State Ethics Commission whether the Coach can be compensated for outside marketing efforts which also utilize the Husky logo or UCONN brand name.  Specifically, the attorneys wish to know whether Coca-Cola, which has separate sponsorship agreements with the Coach and with UCONN, may combine the two agreements to maximize the effectiveness of company advertising.

Under Commission precedent, Coach Calhoun may utilize his celebrity to market private products; but may not use his state title in furtherance of such efforts.  See, e.g., State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 97-14.  59 CLJ 1, p. 4D ( 7/1/97 ).  Similarly, use of the Husky logo, UCONN brand name or other indicia of state authority in such endeavors would also violate Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-84(c); the Code’s prohibition against use of public position for private gain.

Here, however, Coach Calhoun’s attorneys point out that Coca-Cola has a separate and distinct legal right to utilize the UCONN tie-ins; and further assert that the Coach’s Coca-Cola contract is already fixed for a term of years, thereby precluding any impermissible additional financial benefit to the Coach as a result of a combined marketing campaign.

In a letter to the Commission, Coca-Cola has verified these points.  Specifically, the Company has stated that:  the Agreement (effective September 2, 1999 through September 1, 2001, with a one year extension option) “was entered into without regard for whether or not promotions involving both Mr. Calhoun and the University could be conducted”; and that “The Bottler would have entered into the agreement with Mr. Calhoun on the same terms with or without any joint promotions involving the University.”  Pond and Kirsh to Plofsky ( January 4, 2000 ).

Under these circumstances, Coach Calhoun’s participation in the Company’s joint marketing efforts is permitted by the Code.  Specifically, the §1-84(c) prohibition does not apply, if no additional financial gain results from the activity in question.  

Consistent with this Ruling, the State Ethics Commission will allow the Coach to participate in such joint marketing campaigns in the future, as long as any new or renegotiated agreement is not predicated upon UCONN licensed tie-ins and does not provide additional compensation to Coach Calhoun for such efforts.

 By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick,

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:03:24 AM