Tiger Woods’ fall from grace, and his long climb back, was the gift that kept on giving for PR and reputation experts. But it also teed up a round of fresh concern about getting in bed with celebrities.
Since then, there have been other reputation crises (Lance Armstrong) as well as more minor gaffes from boldfaced names like Justin Bieber and Reese Witherspoon. Today’s climate is all the more challenging because social media amplifies the tiniest misstep and the news cycle is relentless in its speed and appetite for scandal.
No one is immune. Unlike her (relatively unknown) husband, Witherspoon wasn’t guilty of drunk driving; she was caught in a more serious infraction – arrogance while under the influence!
So, are marketers still attracted to celebrities? The answer is yes. But there’s been an impact on contract negotiations, morals clauses, and other legal, marketing and PR issues. Here are some considerations for those looking at a celebrity endorsement campaign.
Brand endorsements will be more limited. A while back, it was considered strategic to tie your brand to a breakout athlete in a metaphor for high performance, like Accenture did with Tiger Woods. Today, not so much. Look for companies to fall back on the “Taste great, less filling”-style product endorsement. It’s more cost-effective and far less risky.
For celebrities, privacy is over. If you’re pulling down millions in endorsements based on your professional performance and public image, you have traded away your privacy. Social media is a powerful tool for any kind of brand, from a product to a personality, and it should be subject to limits and restrictions as part of the deal.
Contracts will be shorter and more flexible, with clear exit strategies. A ten-year deal suddenly looks a lot less attractive than a three-year one. Terminations and how they may be communicated will be carefully negotiated to protect the reputations of both parties.
Morals clauses will be tighter, and possibly reciprocal. Sports law expert Michael McCann predicts that savvy personalities will ask for reciprocity here, in the event of reputation damage resulting from something like a massive product recall or personal injury situation.
Celebrity marketing programs must include risk and crisis management plans. Marketers know they must move beyond lip service here. Even something as socially accepted as pregnancy can quash the brand plan, as in the case of Jessica Simpson, who was announced to be with child on the heels of her Weight Watchers deal. A contingency plan is a must.