How To Protect Your Brand From A Celebrity Campaign Gone Wrong


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How Bad Behavior Can Lead To A Tainted Brand Reputation

Stars! They're just like us...they make mistakes. And that's okay! Mistakes are how we live and learn. However, when a celebrity messes up, it can lead to dire consequences. Their actions may not only damage their own reputation but any brand's reputation they are associated with as well. 

It's important to find a celebrity endorser that appeals to your target demographic and, of course, create a contract that protects your brand from any hiccups along the way. In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares how you can safeguard your brand from a celebrity endorser's misdeeds. 

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How You Can Keep Your Brand Safe

When celebrity campaigns go well, you get a different press coverage than when there is a hiccup. That's one way of making lemonade out of lemons. Massive press of your brand trending worldwide, in the crosshairs of whatever dastardly deed the celebrity did.

That's the only good thing to be said when things go wrong. It's interesting - I speak to many brands who fear a celebrity campaign going wrong. 

It can. But the vast majority of celebrity branded campaigns don't have an eyebrow raised and do what they are supposed to do - serve as a brand marketing extravaganza that pulls in fans and raises awareness of your brand. 

The question is this: How do you safeguard a celebrity-driven campaign to make sure that if absolute chaos of the unexpected happens, your brand stays safe? You have to take some risks if you want to get noticed. And if not, then well - stick with traditional advertising. Here are my thoughts on how you can at least keep your brand... safer. 

The Celebrity Impact For Brands

Celebrities are sales drivers who strongly influence consumer engagement. We believe Nike's edition of LeBron James and Michael Jordan shoes will enhance our skills on the court, and how many of us are using Proactiv acne treatment because Jessica Simpson and Katy Perry said so? But just like the crises of Paula Deen and Lance Armstrong, celebrity endorsers and their corresponding brands can find themselves in a publicity nightmare through a bad decision or simple oversight.

However, marketers should refrain from investing in a celebrity partnership due to fear of the unknown. These partnerships are compelling. They get brands noticed. And they trigger significant sales. The key here is to not avoid just due to fear - there are absolutely ways you can protect yourself. Besides, diving in before the campaign starts to make sure there is already nothing that you should be aware of as a red flag. Talk to their agent. They should know. And build into your contract, just like you have built into any escrow agreement - that the seller (the celebrity) has to disclose any pending legal issues or problems. Give yourself a chance for a heads-up that allows you to make an informed decision.

Jeep undoubtedly wished in hindsight that they had disclosure before working with Bruce Springsteen on their Super Bowl commercial. They found out too late that he had a DUI earlier that year. A big no-no for an automotive brand, and they canned the campaign immediately. 

Bruce Springsteen Calls for Unity in Jeep's Super Bowl Ad

Photo Credit: Jeep |


The Perils To Think About Before You Hire A Celebrity

When investing in celebrity talent to endorse a brand, it is essential that the brand manager not only optimize the opportunity with a detailed plan in place before activation but also have the forethought to safeguard against potential blunders that could occur.

Prior to making a celebrity hire, there are a few essential things to consider.

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Authentic + Real Understanding Of Your Brand

First, you want to ensure your chosen endorser understands the brand and the ultimate marketing goals of the company they represent. Having your chosen celebrity actively engage with the brand management team will equip them with the necessary information and responses to appropriately address media opportunities that come their way - whether in a formal interview or a casual conversation on the street.

There is also a concern about whether your brand's endorser uses your product in "real life." Your chosen celebrity endorser may have used a competitive brand before signing on. Educating your endorser on the specific benefits of your brand and the elements which set it apart from competitors is not only helpful in establishing consistency, but you increase the likelihood of that celebrity organically adapting it into their personal lives, increasing the chance of their daily use and loyalty to that product.

Marketing Goals

Exclusivity = Brand Protection

In addition to celebrity endorsements, many brands invest dollars in event sponsorships and TV and film integrations. What would happen if Pepsi endorser Beyonce Knowles' next film role called for her to drink copious amounts of Dr. Pepper on screen? With all the potential events and project sign-is available for your celebrity to join, a conflict of brand interest is likely to arise. Ensure you have exclusivity with your endorser and have a plan in place for what should happen when the celebrity is booked on productions or events that may have partnered with a competing sponsor.

After being secured for different mobile brands, Alicia Keys (BlackBerry) and Ellen DeGeneres (Samsung) blundered when they tweeted from their personal Apple iPhones, which were obviously other manufacturers than their new endorsement partners. Everyone remembers the 'epic selfie' Ellen took with Samsung's Galaxy phone and how present the brand was on-screen throughout the Oscar telecast. However, if you checked out Ellen's backstage tweets detailing the show, all were sent from her personal iPhone, not the Galaxy phone Samsung paid such a hefty price for her to be seen with. Companies should do a bit of behind-the-scenes investigating to see where any conflicts may occur, now and in the future, and address them immediately.

Ellen DeGeneres Oscars Selfie

Photo Credit: Ellen DeGeneres | Vanity Fair 

Protecting Your Brand Amidst Your Endorser's Bad Publicity

Just as you've finally completed prepping your endorser, researching and resolving all possible conflicts, and ensuring exclusivity of your brand, a not-so-good news story involving your celebrity pops up on the cover of this week's top tabloid. Bad news in the entertainment industry spreads faster than wildfire. In today's nonstop-posting, always tweeting, over-sharing world, you must have a crisis plan in place to manage true PR horror stories that will allow your brand to respond in an effective and timely manner.

Celebrities can find themselves in hot water through bad decisions. Their mistakes, unlike the rest of us, get broadcast around the world for all to see. Drunk driving, trouble with the law, relationship issues, or negative comments picked up by paparazzi can all derail a campaign if a plan is not in place to respond quickly to the matter.

When LeBron James tweeted negatively about his Samsung phone - forgetting the brand was a key sponsor of the NBA, the crisis was somewhat averted soon after by having him quickly send a follow-up post stating it was a false alarm. If the celebrity blunders and says or does something specifically negative towards the brand, the brand team will need to address it quickly, that day - even that hour.

Samsung Celebrity Spokesman LeBron James Says His Galaxy Note Makes Him  Sick | Cult of Mac

Photo Credit: LeBron James |

There's No Such Thing As A Perfect Endorser

So you've found the perfect endorser for your brand, but does your target consumer adore that celebrity as much as your company does? Be sure not to put all your eggs in one basket! Don't let YOUR perfect celebrity be the only representation of your brand. While people realize that celebrities are not actually the brand they are the face of, consumers are less likely to judge or discriminate against a product if there is a mix of celebrities engaged with who they can relate to, aspire to, or emulate versus a single one.

A brand endorser's job description is not to simply show up and smile for the cameras, it's a partnership that needs to be worked seamlessly into their everyday lives to ensure success for everyone. It is up to the brand manager to make sure the celebrity understands and supports the larger picture of the brand, its current goals, and its future.

red carpet celebrity

The Power Of A Celebrity

Celebrities are one of the global powerhouses – and they can make a brand’s sales go sonic overnight with the right campaign elements to support the partnership. These can include TVCs (television commercials), print ads, radio and retail store displays – and nowadays, lots and lots of social media.

If you want to learn more about how you can use celebrities to your advantage, check out these Hollywood Branded blogs below!

Also, check out some awesome case studies that showcase how celebrity endorsements can lead to successful sales growth for brands.  

Celebrity Endorsement Deal Case Studies That Made Sales Happen Video