How Closely Does Your Spokesperson Impact Brand Value?
By Weston Anson and Jemma Samala
Not all celebrities are cut out to be a successful licensed brand spokesperson. Seems obvious, right? Beyond “gut” instinct, there are generally four factors that can help licensing professionals determine if a particular celebrity will be a successful spokesperson for your brand. However, there is one other key factor that is growing in importance: that the celebrity maintains a lack of negative publicity.
A celebrity can be notorious, and that can create an enormous amount of buzz and social media activity. But there is that line across which a company as a user of their rights of publicity doesn’t want them to cross. It is an invisible line between notorious and negative publicity, and hard to define, but we all know when it has been crossed.
And that line may not even be the doing of the celebrity spokesperson themselves. Take for instance the recent Jarod Fogle/Subway scandal. Once media outlets picked up that Fogle’s home was being raided by the FBI (although the reason behind the search and seizure has not been officially released), the sensationalized news was spread along social media platforms like wildfire. It immediately became a top trending story on Twitter and on Facebook, and over one hundred stories were posted to news sites within the first hour after the news broke. While we believe it will probably be verified that the incident is about the Jared Foundation’s former executive director being investigated for child pornography, you can’t erase the vision of Jarod being escorted away from his home during the FBI search and especially the headlines linking his name to child porn.
The other four factors include:
Level of Celebrity is the most important factor driving celebrity endorsements. This is a measure of how famous is the celebrity doing the sponsoring. A higher number would correlate with actors or athletes who are widely known. A top number of ten would require the celebrity to be internationally recognized, with a great reputation, and have a fan friendly image. Furthermore, a score of ten would generally mean the celebrity is under constant watch of the press and paparazzi.
Level of Endorsement is the measure of how involved the celebrity is with the brand. Celebrities are busy and therefore their time is worth a great sum of money. Companies with big marketing budgets can afford to purchase a larger chunk of the celebrity’s time and right of publicity for their product. Efficient marketing involves precise planning in order to maximize returns.
Level of Use is how the company chooses to use and involve the celebrity. Once a photo or commercial has been captured of the product and then it needs to be publicized with the celebrity. Marketers can get the most out of the endorsement deal by purchasing a great deal of air time or ad space.
Level of Connection measures how much the celebrity knows about the product, and their expertise. Companies who want to attach a certain image to their product can seek out celebrities who have already established appropriate identities. Professional athletes would be considered experts on endorsement deals for products that relate to their sport. Celebrities’ expertise can be measured based on the identity the general public perceives of them.
The clincher about the relationship that the brand has to the spokesperson in this instance is that Fogle is so closely connected to Subway, and Subway to Fogle. While they have mutually agreed to suspend ties, it will be hard for consumers to imagine one without the other. In this case, the spokesperson will impact brand value.
When will a celebrity spokesperson scandal not affect your brand value? When you’re a brand that has so many celebrity spokespeople that one, or several, scandals won’t affect your business. Look at Nike. They utilize a number of celebrity endorsements for their products, including the likes of Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pistorius, Michael Phelps, and Hope Solo. What do they all have in common? They all endorse Nike products and they have all been involved in some type of negative publicity. What did it not do? Send Nike to the poor house. In fact, Nike’s revenues have continued to increase every year since Tiger Wood’s sex scandal, while the stock prices has remained steady. Nike doesn’t rely on one key celebrity spokesperson.
The trick seems to be an old cliché, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If one spokesperson falls out of the public’s good grace and breaks, you have a whole nest left to hatch open.
Weston Anson is Chairman of CONSOR®, an intellectual asset consulting firm specializing in trademark, patent and copyright licensing, valuation, and litigation support. After receiving his MBA (honors) from Harvard University, he served with the management consulting firm of Booz-Allen & Hamilton. Subsequently, he was Vice President at Playboy Enterprises, Inc., where he launched many of their licensing programs; and then Senior Vice President of Hang Ten International, which grew to nearly 100 licensees in 30 countries under his direction.
Jemma Samala is the Director of Communications and IP/Legal Education at CONSOR. Prior to joining CONSOR, she was a legal analyst at Pillsbury Winthrop and O’Melveny & Myers for over a decade, specializing in litigation and creditors rights. She also has a strong interest in licensing issues and is currently working on obtaining her Certified Licensing Executive designation. Ms. Samala is a frequent writer on IP and licensing topics.