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Monday, 17 March 2008

INTA Grapevine Symposium report 3

The after-lunch session of the INTA Advanced Symposium focused on the use of celebrities and sponsorships to increase brand value. Subtitled "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". This session put some strain on the comprehension of the non-Americans present, since examples under consideration contained both products and celebrities that were none too well known outside the US. Nevertheless, the principles discussed were fully comprehensible and there were plenty of war stories involving such genuinely celebrity names as Lloyd Bridges, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

Right: the original "Good, Bad & Ugly" -- what brands might they have been paid to endorse?

Moderated by Tina Pompey (Chevron), the session featured an interaactive discussion with Helen Minsker (Banner & Witcoff) and William (Bill) Skrzyniarz (Skrzyniarz & Mallean, US). In this context, "celebrity" was defined as "anyone who has enough public persona to make it worth a company seeking them out". Bill pointed out the need for proper homework even before making an initial approach: while trade marks and copyright might be pan-US rights, publicity rights -- which may or may not include posthumous rights -- vary (if they exist at all) from state to state and there's not much use in negotiating with someone who doesn't actually hold the rights you want. The need for due diligence was reinforced by Helen, who reminded participants that this was needed on both sides: the agent for the celebrity had to make sure that the endorsement didn't damage the image or prospects of his/her client.

Morality clauses came in for discussion too, with reference to Michael Vick (left), whose conviction for involvement in a dog-fighting ring lost him endorsements apparently worth more than $100 million. The big problem in drafting morality clauses is that, the more tightly they are drafted, the more likely they are to leave something out -- but if they are drafted in broader terms they are in danger of being vague and unenforceable. Once again, celebrities are also seeking to impose reciprocal morality clauses, since they don't want to be tarnished by association with sweat shops, tax evasion or other lucrative activities that are popular with shareholders but not with the purchasing public.

It was stressed that celebrities must work on the development of their own brand images on a long-term basis, not just taking each endorsement deal as a one-off. Also, once you've got your celebrity, you have to be sure that you can use the celebrity in the manner you plan: will such background issues as the colour of clothing to be worn by the celebrity in advertising and marketing the endorsed product impinge upon your planned exploitation?

Mustafa Safiyuddin (DSK, Mumbai, India) then described the position in India, where cricketers and Bollywood stars received very large fees: there it was possible to impose an contractual obligation to pay a set sum of damages to compensate an injured company for damage done through a misbehaving celebrity.

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