Thursday, 21 March 2013

When celebrity endorsement goes bad

Celebrities have the potential to send a product straight to the front page and turn it into a household name. A couple of years ago David Beckham was endlessly photographed wearing a Brad leather jacket from Superdry. He wasn’t paid to do so, he simply liked the jacket. But thanks to his perceived endorsement, the company went on to shift over 70,000 of the item.

Little wonder that brands fall over themselves to pay stars huge sums to endorse their wares, or to just send them shed loads of freebies. Unfortunately, as with everything in life, this strategy is not without risks – just ask Lance Armstrong’s sponsors. One of the most famous cases of a celebrity endorsement deal gone bad occurred in the 90s. Before he hit the headlines for rather different reasons, former football star turned actor O J Simpson was the extremely high profile face of Hertz rental cars. This deal would come to an abrupt end, however, when he got arrested in 1994.

A little closer to home, Chelsea FC captain John Terry had been the brand ambassador of Umbro sportswear since 2002, netting him a cool £4 million for his troubles. The company was none too pleased when it was revealed in 2010 that Terry had been playing away with a team mate’s girlfriend. But the final straw came last year, in the wake of allegations of racial abuse. Unsurprisingly, his contract was not renewed.
In an even more high profile product placement fiasco, there was the small matter of the 80 million dollars that Pepsi paid Britney Spears to promote their brand. The singer was famously photographed drinking Coca-Cola not long after. A similar situation caught out Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho more recently.

These nightmare stories do not seem to have dented the love affair between mainstream brands and A-listers – or our desire to snap up the products they are hawking. From Brad Pitt extolling the virtues of Chanel No 5, to Jennifer Aniston turning us on to Sky Broadband, it looks as if celebrity endorsement is here to stay.

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