When US swimmer Michael Phelps was tugging away on a bong at a party last year, it’s unlikely he contemplated that his actions would cause Kellogg’s to choke on their Corn Flakes and sack him.
Brands have had a long history of using superstars. They know the risks that come with hiring a star.
Kellogg’s is a family-orientated brand and couldn’t be seen associating with Phelps and drug-taking especially when he’s the centre of a big news story in the middle of a brand campaign.
But his backers including Hilton, Omega and Subway have stood by him.
The performance, and public perception, of a brand ambassador is also a deciding factor in whether public outrage is generated by a star’s slip- ups. The well-documented personal life of cricket star Shane Warne hasn’t prevented him landing lucrative deals with 888 Poker and Advanced Hair Studio in Australia and be treated like a demi-god by the supporters of Rajasthan Royals and the brands associated with the team; HDFC Standard Life, Royal Challange, Puma etc.
India’s exit from the ICC T-20 World Cup in England is being blamed on ‘Dhoni’ and hence the speculation of his brand image taking a beating thanks to India’s (being the current champions of the format) departure from the tournment even before the semi-finals. This premise couldn’t be farther from the truth and displays a lack of understanding.
The primary role of the brand ambassador is to personify the values intrinsic to the brand and evoke the dreams associated with owning the product.
As such, he or she must demonstrate a trend of increasing popularity and sometimes even notoriety in the markets where the advertising and promotion will be visible in order to reach the projected target groups effectively.
MSD is a youth icon; he is admired and revered, for his target group and that of the consumers of the brand he endorses; winning and losing are part of the game.
Some brands (new deals in the pipeline) may see this as an opportunity to drive home a bargain on his endorsement fee (highly doubt that), and this is the only effect the current situation may have.
Furthermore, India plays the West Indies in a few weeks, followed by the ICC Champions Trophy in September / October and some of the other leading Indian cricketers play the Champions League (IPL) in October in India.With the cricket calendar looking like the Virar local to Churchgate in the immediate future, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the other player/s have many opportunities to redeem themselves and their
Brand ambassadors are not only the face of the brand but also an extension of the brand’s imagery.
Companies have long understood the power and impact of associating popular personalities with their brand names and products.
Most will agree that a successful brand ambassador can make or break a new product launch, or even catapult a company into a new era of exponential revenues after a long drought of fading brand clout.
The fundamental premise of brand ambassadors is about translating the goodwill of a celebrity onto a consumer and linking them to brand traits, although public mishaps (like the T-20 WC debacle) often lead to a personality, and, by association, a brand, receiving media ridicule, the damage is rarely long-term.
Prashant Singh is director, business development, Octagon.