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Did “Biggest Loser” Contestant Violate Endorsement Contract by Gaining Weight?

Fitness sponsor, FC Online Marketing, Inc. (FCOM), is suing Tara Costa — a 2009 contestant on “The Biggest Loser” — in federal court for gaining too much weight after entering into an agreement to become a representative of the brand. The complaint alleges that the reality TV star breached her contract by failing to “maintain her current level of fitness and conditioning,” saying that the star gained more than 45 pounds since her appearance on NBC’s hit show. The company is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

Costa’s lawyer responded to the allegations on NBC’s Today.com, saying  “[D]espite FC Online’s supposed efforts to distance itself from an overweight individual, it continued to display her name and likeness in association with the services it was offering.” The complaint also alleges that Costa breached her non-compete agreement by entering into a separate deal with FCOM competitor, Anytime Fitness, LLC.

Ms. Costa is hardly the first celebrity whose endorsement deal has gone awry:

  • Earlier in 2013, celebrity Chef Paula Deen was dropped by sponsors for her admittedly racist comment in a deposition.
  • In 2011, Pittsburg Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall sued Hanesbrands for dropping his contract with the company’s champion brand after he tweeted controversial opinions in the wake of the September 11 attacks, saying that his statements did not violate his endorsement contract’s morals clause.
  • In 2007, Charlize Theron was sued by her sponsor, Swiss watchmaker Raymond Weil, after she was seen sporting a Dior watch in a perfume ad and in another ad for an AIDS charity.
  • In 2001, tennis pro Martina Hingis sued her sponsor, sportswear manufacturer Sergio Tacchini, claiming that Tacchini’s trainers caused her to sustain an ankle injury that almost ended her tennis career. She claimed that she was given defective shoes unsuitable for competition.

For more information about morality clauses, endorsement deals, noncompete agreements and other elements of celebrity sponsorships, contact a knowledgeable attorney.

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