Celebrity Promotions – Hot or Not?

Post 85 of 109

Paula Deen is, sadly, just another example of a celebrity gone astray.  But what do you do when your brand is tied to said celebrity?

Paula Deen







I am sure that all of you have been bombarded with the news about celebrity chef, Paula Deen’s, admission to making racist remarks.  To date, at least 12 different companies have cut ties with the doyenne of southern cooking.

I, personally, have been avoiding the furor as I hate to watch people (whoever they are or the reason) get skewered by the media, but it got me thinking…

What does a brand do when one of their celebrity spokespeople is called out for “less than flattering” behavior?

A number of years ago, I was working on a global deal for a major food-related Client with the Olsen twins.  We had sent over a term sheet and were trying to finalize the agreement when their people backed out.

A few weeks later, the news broke that Mary-Kate had been hospitalized for anorexia.

Needless to say, we were relieved that the deal had not been finalized.

And what about Lance Armstrong?

The (former) 7-time winner of the Tour de France was stripped of his titles when it was discovered that he had been doping the entire time.

Armstrong lost deals with Nike, Anheuser-Busch and Oakley to name a few.

These days companies across the map are partnering with major names to help sell their brands – from retail product to electronics.

But you have to be really careful when selecting your celebrity partner as you never know what a person is going to do in the next few weeks, month and even years.

So, how do you select a partner?

First, the partner has to make sense thematically.  You wouldn’t partner with Martha Stewart if you were a sports brand, but Shaquille O’Neal would likely be a good fit.

Next, you need to make sure that you can afford the partnership as chances are only the largest brands can pay top-dollar for a big-name, award-winning figure.

From there, you need to decide if the celebrity will be able to move the needle for your brand.  If not, there isn’t any point in paying for their borrowed equity.

And then, of course, you need to cross all your t’s to ensure that the celebrity isn’t doing something in their private (or even public) life that might shed negative light on your brand.  Not always (as we have seen) easy…

I personally think that borrowing a celebrity’s equity can be quite beneficial to a brand but it clearly comes with some risks.  Tell us what you think in the Comments below…

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  • Debbie

    Great points Jen. Another real point is that as a company, one should be clear on what the goals are of the celebrity partnership. I signed Snoop Dogg for pet products a few years ago, and just as we were launching product, Snoop managed to get arrested three times in about a three month period for gun possession. With that said, most of our top retailers like Target and Petco decided not to risk bringing in the line, so ultimately the partnership was a break-even. However, as a company, we were still extremely happy with our partnership with Snoop as we were able to obtain roughly $20M worth of PR in places that we were normally not highlighted. Not to mention that on many other notes when it came to product development and zeal and promotion of the product, Snoop was a fantastic partner.

    • jenerositymktg

      That’s terrific, Debbie, and thanks for the true-life example. It’s fortunate that the retailers had not already brought in product as that could have been a true PR nightmare as you well know. That said, the positive PR from Snoop was definitely a big plus! 🙂