Brand ambassadors who go off-brand

January 22, 2015 Published by

Personalities who become brand ambassadors can be a powerful marketing tool for brands. From celebrities to social media influencers, they have the potential to make brands and products relatable and accessible, increasing exposure and successfully driving sales.

Unfortunately for brands, their fairytale relationship with an ambassador doesn’t always end happily ever after. You may already know how some of these fairytales ended.

Tiger Woods was a brand ambassador for Gatorade, Gillette, Accenture, AT&T, Gold Digest and Tag Heuer. After his extramarital affairs were revealed, the majority of these brands found it difficult to see the Woods for the trees.

Shane Warne was a brand ambassador for nicotine replacement brand Nicorette when he was photographed smoking, days before the end of his four month contract worth $200,000.

British Paints ditched Rolf Harris for a clean canvas, when the company realised a pretty picture could not be painted of its ambassador of more than 30 years.

Christian Dior followed their instinct when they dropped all Chinese advertisements featuring Sharon Stone, after she commented on a devastating earthquake in China: ‘They’re not being nice to the Dalai Lama, who is a friend of mine. And then all of this earthquake and all this happened and I thought, is that karma? When you’re not nice, that bad things happen to you?

So what can brands do to avoid testing the veracity of the old adage ‘all publicity is good publicity’?

Before signing on the dotted line, it pays to check that the ambassador agreement is watertight and clearly and adequately addresses key issues to help manage brand risk, including:

  • Services: Brands should set out exactly what they want from the relationship and what the ambassador needs to do to keep them happy. This can include complying with all reasonable directions, requests and instructions from the brand, attending punctually and in a fit state to perform the services and not doing anything illegal, contrary to law or that may bring the brand into disrepute.
  • Restraints: It may border on controlling, but every relationship needs boundaries. Brands should consider incorporating appropriate restraints, such as preventing the ambassador from publicly using competitive products, knowingly participating in any parody of the brand or making any public reference to a competitor or their products or services.
  • Fees and expenses: Brands should consider splitting payment of the fees, say 50% upfront on signing the contract and 50% on completion of the services. There should also be some claw-back rights on fees if the ambassador does not do the right thing. Brands should also set out exactly what expenses they’re willing to pay to the ambassador (such as travel, accommodation, per diems etc.).
  • Rights: While brands can own the intellectual property created in materials featuring the ambassador, brands can only obtain a right to use the ambassador’s name, likeness, image, voice, any other indicia of identity and their performances in the created materials. This right can vary across offline media, paid or owned online media, earned media and social media, and the variations and differences in these rights should be clearly stepped out in the contract. For instance, materials posted to social media usually remain after the agreement ends, and this needs to be carefully addressed in the agreement.
  • Exclusivity: Ambassadors can’t generally be tamed, but three’s a crowd if it’s in the same market. Brands should ensure their ambassadors cannot promote or associate themselves with a competitor in the same territory for the duration of the contract and (if the brand can get away with it) for a period after the contract ends.
  • Ending the relationship: It may be sunset-walks-along-the-beach-drawing-hearts-in-the-sand now, but it may not always be this way. In addition to any breach of contract, brands should have a right to terminate if the relationship turns sour. This might include if the ambassador is accused, charged or convicted of a criminal offence, if they engage in conduct that violates accepted standards of behaviour, if they bring the reputation of the brand or the ambassador into disrepute, or if they disparage the brand or its campaign, particularly in social media.

It can be daunting entering into a commercial relationship with a personality as this requires a significant financial and reputational investment by a brand. Personalities by their very nature can be opinionated, entitled and prone to act unpredictably and have often bitten the hand that feeds them. So before brands appoint them as their ambassador, brands should consider the relationship, assess the risks and take steps to manage these risks by entering into a comprehensive ambassador agreement that addresses the relevant legal issues, including if applicable those identified above.

We are always here to help, so please contact us when you think you have found that perfect personality for your brand so you don’t end up like this:

Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr

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