By Alan Graner
Who wouldn’t want Marilyn Monroe or Paul Newman was a celebrity spokesperson? It would be enough to make a company CEO froth at the mouth.
Would Nike be as popular without Air Jordans? Or L’Oréal Paris without Eva Longoria? Or Jell-0 Pudding without Bill Cosby?
But then, what happens when your spokesperson becomes a tabloid highlight, like:
Bill Cosby—Jell-O Pudding
It was a match made in heaven: America’s dad and America’s pudding. Unfortunately America’s dad was accused of serial sexual assaults.
Long-time Subway spokesman Jared was famous for losing 200 pounds on a Subway diet. Then he was arrested on charges of child pornography.
The greatest golfer of his generation, he was highly sought after as a corporate spokesperson. When his multiple adulterous affairs were revealed, brands dropped him.
Remember when the star football player rushed through airports for Hertz or sported three legs for Frye boots? He got the boot when he was charged with spousal abuse, then murder.
Since celebrities are human, are celebrity scandals inevitable?
Risk vs. reward
http://www.businessinsider.com/celebrity-endorsements-can-be-dangerous-2016-8 quoted USC marketing professor Jeetendr Sehdev on four reasons to consider whether to drop a celebrity:
- How severe is the issue? DUI? Violence?
- How heavily is the celebrity associated with the brand?
- How famous is the celebrity?
- How big is the contract? A spokesperson with a $1 million contract is not the same as LeBron James’ reported $1 billion contract with Nike.
What should a company do?
There’s no simple answer. Should they offer support? Cut their losses? Do nothing?
Hakim Azrour https://en.elevent.co/blogs/sponsorship/17174589-celebrity-endorsement-scandal reports an analysis of 60 endorsement scandals proves one thing: companies pay big time. On average a scandal’s average financial impact is 0.75% of the company’s market capitalization. That can add up to a major loss.
Azrour cites another study that indicates the best response a brand manager can give is…silence. No press releases, no media statements.
One thing is for sure: Companies should avoid celebrities with high-risk lifestyles.
What say you? Are celebrity endorsements worth the risk?
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA business public relations and marketing content firm. For content that makes you stand out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at email@example.com. Or visit www.dsprel.com.