Today’s item about the drop of Madison Square Garden stock caught my eye, not only because I chuckled at the speculative trading (LeBron’s coming to the Big Apple!). It also reminded me of a brand trap many fall into during these celebrity-drenched times: Hanging your brand on the shoulders of one celebrity.
We have, of course, seen this backfire recently with brands that tied themselves closely with Tiger Woods, which caused companies such as Accenture to scramble for a new campaign.
Having a celebrity spokesperson to lead your way as its advantages but potential pitfalls. The advantage is that celebrities often have instant brand meaning and your brand can trade on that equity without having to actually build it. (Think of the easy-going charm of James Garner and Mariette Hartley from the Polaroid commercials from the early 80s.)
In recent years, athletes have become the primary endorsers of products because they represent “winning,” a brand face that Nike was particularly adept at using.
In those cases, many of the athletes just blend into each other as you would have to bring your own sports knowledge to distinguish the players or hope they have their own distinct personality, such as Peyton Manning. In the cases of those who are extremely high profile (Tiger, Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps, etc.), then your brand is entirely wrapped in the individual person. If that person does not hold up their end of the deal, off the field as it were, then your brand has some serious backtracking to do.
It’s speculative brand management, and it’s something you want to be careful about. The more effective and long-lasting way is to find the highest emotional intensity in the market and build on that, instead of trying to find the quick fix.