Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, Paris Hilton, Kirstie Alley. Advertisers have long hitched their brand wagon to celebrities, hoping some of the attention these stars attract will rub off on them. But as the recent Don Imus “nappy-headed hos” affair made clear, there is a definite downside to associating your brand with controversial celebrities like Imus, Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh.
“You hope they don’t go off the deep end like Imus, but advertisers want to be associated with something that gets them attention,” explains Reshma Shah, assistant professor of marketing at Emory’s Goizueta Business School.
As Shah correctly points out, Imus’s firing wasn’t necessarily a direct result of what he said, but because the advertisers dropped him. “The show’s outlets realized that if they didn’t let him go, they’d have an even bigger financial problem,” she says.
Thinking of hiring a celebrity to represent your brand? Shah offers some advice:
“Think long and hard about finding the right fit,” adds Shah. “They’re communicating your image and your promise. You don’t mess with that.”
UPDATE: In my original post, I forgot to link to the Emory article, so I added it above. Here it is again if you missed it.