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DUMPED – Brands after a celebrity endorsement breakup

Borrowing celebrity spotlight

If it all goes wrong the process of dropping a personality can give the brand a morale backbone that would not otherwise be visible, say brand experts.

November 1, 2012 2:50 by

“Nike has always been a big believer in the power of celebrity endorsements. On a recent visit to the Nike campus in Beaverton, Oregon, I was amused to hear a senior executive talk about an athlete as being theirs,” says Nick Griffin, Executive Business Director of The Brand Union Middle East.

As some of the world’s most powerful brands continue to invest both their vision and money into celebrity ambassadors, in hopes that their warm glow will add credibility, popularity and recognition to their name , one cannot help but ponder the potentially harmful ramifications that come their way when – as seen with the Lance Armstrong duping scandal – the public relationship ends in a horrific manner.

“Due to seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him,” said a Nike spokesman when the investigation was concluded.

Celebrity endorsements – while their values are usually kept secret – have been around for decades. Nike, for instance, is the world’s biggest spender on athlete endorsement deals in the world and its annual report shows it has signed commitments for $3.2 billion worth of endorsement deals over the next five years.

But the question remains, how does a brand rectify its course and regain both likability and credibility following an enormous ‘scandal’ with a public figure who is meant to represent their values?

Nursing the wounds of celebrity misconduct

According to Griffin and other brand experts, they won’t have to.

“For many years, Lance was the epitome of the Nike spirit – his ‘just do it’ attitude, his battle and victory over Cancer and multiple Tour de France victories said everything about what was at the heart of the Nike brand,” he says.

“The relationship made fortunes for both Nike and Lance, building brand equity along the way. Then it all went wrong, Lance turned out to be a cheat, a liar and not the man Nike thought he was, and he was out of the door. Did this damage Nike you ask? Not really. They will be seen by the moral majority (which by the way includes sportsmen and women), as having done the right thing. Yet, for Lance himself, his deceit was devastating. Everything he stood for was tainted, his memory tarnished.”

John Brash, founder of Brash Brands says neither the Tiger Woods nor the Armstrong scandal has really affected Nike as a brand. “Consumers see the fallibility of the individual as being quite different from that of the brand.”

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