No one is perfect and that includes our favorite celebrities. Every day there are new breeds of brand ambassadors and messengers who influence consumer behaviors, adding star power and creating desires via their celebrity endorsements.
Still, brands often rely on traditional ambassadors, celebrities, athletes, musicians, and influencers with a pulse, loose lips, hot tempers, larger than life egos and sometimes entitlement. Knowing when and if to stick with a celebrity or influencer is critical for endorsement success.
The number of high-profile people who have endured a spectacular fall from grace is increasing. With omnipresent social media, news about celebrity scandals travels fast with immediate headlines around the globe, bringing disgrace and scrutiny not only on the people involved, but also brands that associate with them. Certain celebrities’ past behaviors or misbehaviors, that up until recently did not cause outrage or backlash are now coming to light, including movements like #metoo #timesup.
Often, there’s no coming back for a celebrity who committed certain politically incorrect acts, transgressions, misdemeanors, or felonies. Fans and brands drop them with the speed of light.
However, for some, redemption can be achieved thanks to smart PR crisis management, hard work, and personal relationships with their sponsors. Fans and brands are willing to give them a second chance. For brands, sticking with their celeb depends not only on personal likeness, but on calculated bets on how much of a future such fallen and risen celebrity has left.
Both sides, sponsoring brands and their spokespersons, celebrities, or influencers play this game together. They share stakes and risks, betting on each other with protective provisions of their endorsement contracts. It is important that they are aligned in their values, political views, social activism, quality of their products, and level of edge. After all, both A-listers and brand sponsors can equally embarrass each other, causing social media ridicule and long-lasting damage to their respective brands.
There are plenty of celebrities with shameful gaffes or felonies, including some of the most famous Hollywood darlings, who managed to survive fans’ backlash, media storms, imprisonments. They managed to shake off bad behavior stigma by paying their dues, apologizing, and moving on, all the while gaining sympathy and sharing their stories of redemptions with their sponsor brand logos in the background.
In the long term, brands that apply strategic “wait and see” approaches with their misbehaving stars, instead of publicizing rapid abandonment, tend to handle such crisis better, capitalizing on the “second chance” story. The repercussions towards a brand in such cases are rather short-lived and rare.
Nike is famous for being loyal to athletes with its endorsement deals. After all, sport is all about perseverance. And a few weeks ago, they cashed in big on such loyalty, when their support of Tiger Woods paid off. They have been partners since 1996, despite all the moral turbulences, bad publicity, and physical challenges. Tiger’s last 2013 contract with Nike, valued at $200M, proved to be a smart move. Their motto “Just Do It” achieved a new meaning when Tiger won his 15th major, in front tens of millions of fans cheering in delight.
Talent can make or break branded campaigns. However, endorsement fees, misdirected promotional messages, on and off camera performances, and values need to be carefully analyzed before signing a contract. Of course some factors are unpredictable, but there are ways and terms that need to be addressed when selecting organic partnership between brand and talent whether they be celebrity, influencer, or blogger.
Both sides need an expert to help manage all individuals and relationships – partnership matchmaking so to speak. Proper pairing, authenticity, enthusiasm, mutual trust, and of course legal ramification of such partnership are top priorities when building brand/celebrity relationships. Here at Greenlight we listen to both sides, aligning the best possible partners and constantly monitoring the health and vitality of each relationship brokered.
Mariola Kalinska is a Senior Director, Advertising Rights and Partnerships at Greenlight.