LOS ANGELES: Verizon Wireless has backed out of sponsoring the North American leg of Gwen Stefani's Sweet Escape tour after the appearance of a controversial video of her opening act.
In the video - which surfaced on, but has since been removed from, YouTube - hip-hop artist Akon is seen simulating sex on-stage with an underage female audience member.
Eric Rabe, SVP of media relations for Verizon, said the company's decision to cancel its sponsorship came after several weeks of review. Communication efforts are being handled in-house.
"We look at all these [sponsorships]," Rabe said. Sometimes, he explained, their brand-appropriateness changes during the course of the program.
In this instance, Rabe said, the company of the soul-influenced rapper most famous for his single "Smack That" was "the wrong place for us to be associated."
In addition to pulling its sponsorship of the tour - which industry estimates value at close to $2 million - Verizon has also has removed Akon ringtones and music from its handsets and stores. Verizon's Stefani ringtones and music offerings have not been affected.
As for Verizon's future in music sponsorships, Rabe said, the company has done them "from time to time, and will do them again. We just have make sure it's appropriate for the brand to be positioned there."