Does a Celebrity maketh a Brand or vice-a-versa?

The debate has been going on for a while and it continues. Who is bigger? Is it the brand or is it the celebrity?

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Brands and celebrities always go together, more so if you take a sport like football. The stardom a ‘half decent’ footballer achieves sometimes defies all logic. The amount of money, unimaginable most of the times that come their way are solely due to their glamorous profession and the huge number of brands looking to engage with them. The player’s agents are well aware of this opportunity and do all the dirty work to make sure both their and their clients’ bank balances are happy. Endorsements and image rights are two channels which leading brands of the world generally sign up celebrities for.

The table below gives us an idea of how much footballers earn by way of endorsements:

The celebrity brings to the brand associations of everything that is good about sport: hard work, achievement, determination and success. But most of all, he brings an attitude and a charisma to the brand, that should ideally match the brand’s values and persona. In return, the brand adds credibility to the celebrity, gives him greater visibility, and makes him into an icon (a rich one at that!). Who adds more value to the other? It is an ongoing debate, and the word is not yet out on this one.

David Beckham, the English footballer, is currently plying his trade in the US with LA Galaxy.  He has been wearing Adidas sportswear since the age of 12. In the early 2000s, Adidas feared that Beckham might sign up with Nike, so they decided to take a proactive step and sign him up for life. He was paid close to USD 80 mn upfront and the rest (a percentage, close to USD 4 mn a year then) would be paid over the course of his life. Although the latest figures aren’t available, it would surely be much more by now. Clearly, here the celebrity was felt to be invaluable to the brand!

If one thought that footballers were minting money and that they always ran the show, they are clearly mistaken. In return for the huge pay packets that celebrities are given, brands expect them to accede to certain norms of behavior, which if they violate, they are likely to be either penalized or even dropped.

Last year, Wayne Rooney got into trouble with soft drinks giant Coca Cola, who made it clear to this teenage prodigy that his off-field behavior was the root cause for his 600,000 pounds a year contract not being renewed. Earlier this year, Coca Cola cancelled another contract worth $1mn a year with former World Player of the Year, Ronaldinho, who was caught drinking Pepsi during one of his press conferences. It was a clear breach of his endorsement contract that invited the ire of his sponsors. Another example outside the world of football is that of Tiger Woods. Woods, known to have sponsorships ranging upwards of USD 80mn, lost a chunk of his sponsors when the news broke out that he had cheated on his wife and his public image took a severe knock.

In today’s world,with an increasing number of online news portals and magazines dedicated to following the private lives of sports celebrities, they have to be very cautious about their lifestyle and brand choices. It is true that brands ‘recognize’ talent and pay them good money for endorsements, but not without letting them know who the boss is!

This blog post is written by Devanathan Srinivasan, Associate Insight Consultant – Data Mining, Brandscapes Worldwide. Deva eats, breathes and sleeps football.

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About Brandscapes Worldwide

Brandscapes specializes in marketing analytics and insight consulting for consumer goods, services and the retail sectors. We leverage the power of advanced data mining tools and the practical marketing and communication planning expertise to distil actionable marketing insights.
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1 Response to Does a Celebrity maketh a Brand or vice-a-versa?

  1. fehinty says:

    thanks so much for this post. I’m writing my dissertation on the role of celebrity endorsement in the purchase of sport outfit.

    would appreciate more help

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