Celebrity Endorsements Can Be Great for Brand Reputation Until They’re Not
Celebrity endorsements have been a part of brand reputation management for not just decades, but centuries. The first known endorsement dates to the 1760s when potter and marketing pioneer Josiah Wedgwood employed royal endorsements to add value to his products and increase sales.
Today, it’s hard not to mention a company and not think of a celebrity or two that has partnered with them:
- Snoop Dogg for Corona
- Ryan Reynolds for Mint Mobile
- Shaquille O’Neal for Papa John’s
- Brie Larson for Nissan
- Jennifer Garner and Samuel L. Jackson for Capital One
The list goes on and on. But when a company finds the right celebrity with the right personality and following to partner with – one that matches its image and messaging – it can be a significant boon for sales and reputational enhancement with the general public.
But, what about when a company partners with a celebrity that strays away from the image that the company wants to portray?
Should an organization cut ties? And if so, how quickly should the partnership be rendered mute?
These are important questions for any organization, not just businesses, that enlists the support of celebrities.
Look at Adidas. For years Ye, also known as Kanye West, has been hot and heavy with controversy and radical statements, while having a partnership with Adidas to create the Yeezy brand that started back in 2013.
However, Adidas finally had enough this October when earlier this month on Twitter, Kanye said he was to “Go death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” Then the rapper said during the Drink Champs Podcast, “I can say antisemitic s*** and Adidas cannot drop me.”
Well, they did. As did Gap, and Foot Locker – both of which had a Yeezy line and sold Yeezy products, respectively.
These companies aren’t the first to ever to break off a beneficial partnership with a celebrity, especially if they did or said something that’s morally wrong, racist or sexist.
What about NBA star Kyrie Irving, who just had his partnership with Nike suspended for tweeting a link to a film that contained antisemitic ideology and avoided apologizing until the NBA suspended him for five games.
For any organization, these types of incidents are unpredictable, but they can cause significant reputational damage.
It’s not like Adidas can control every action or thought of Ye, but what Adidas or any company partnering with a celebrity – no matter how popular – can do is prepare ahead of time so they can take swift and decisive action during the crisis response.
That action, depending on the situation, could mean releasing a statement to acknowledge the harm done to quickly severing ties with a celebrity and losing significant money. The move by Adidas is expected to cost the company $246 million in fourth quarter sales since Kanye wasn’t just an endorser but had his own product line with the manufacturer.
Otherwise, moving slowly or taking no action at all, however, can cause significant harm to a brand’s reputation and could require years to repair.
For more information on how Xenophon can assist brands in managing their reputations, please visit us: https://xenophonstrategies.com/services/media-relations.