Could a Spokesperson be Hazardous to your business?

Could a Spokesperson be Hazardous to your business?
Heather Rubesch - Fri May 15, 2009 @ 03:38AM
Comments: 10

Miss California Carrie PrejeanA common practice for many years has been to use celebrities, models, athletes and other recognizable public figures as spokespeople for businesses and organizations.  Many celebrities and athletes make a substantial portion of their earnings doing endorsements.  Most of these celebrities understand the role of the spokesperson is to shamelessly plug the product and smile their big famous grin in all your ads and commercials.  Have you ever heard a Nascar Driver in a post race interview, “The Budweiser-Tide-Goodyear-Midas-Ponitac ran great today.  The crew and our sponsors pulled together in an outstanding team effort and we just can’t thank them enough”?

Occasionally what companies get it something very different.  For instance, Former NBA player Charles Barkley who said “I'm not a role model. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids.”  The recent controversy surrounding Miss California and her political views has brought this into a new light for me.  When you become a spokesperson you have an employment contract and therefore when acting on behalf of that company you trade money for your personal freedom of speech.

I am not sure how Nike felt when Charles Barkley said “These are my new shoes. They're good shoes. They won't make you rich like me, they won't make you rebound like me, they definitely won't make you handsome like me. They'll only make you have shoes like me. That's it.” but considering Barkley's reputation I believe shock value and athletic bravado were part of the appeal of hiring him as a spokesperson.

The Miss California pageant system obviously was trying to limit and muzzle their spokesperson when they asked Carrie Prejean to sign a contract prohibiting her from joining political organizations during her reign.  And while the whole beauty pageant industry is “plastic” to many, there is certainly a demographic of people who are influenced by Miss California and her actions.  The pageant officials in California made such an investment in Carrie Prejean that they paid for her to have cosmetic surgery.  While this is obviously not the common employment arrangement they did have expectations that she would follow her legal obligations under the contract.

Now with so many celebrities and public figures jumping into Twitter and blogging, the line between what we need to know about them and what we now know has never been thinner. Several celebrities who actively tweet have said they do so because it allows them to interact with their fans without the filter of the media. Others like Ashton Kutcher obviously also have a social agenda he is promoting. Kutcher is also the spokesperson for Nikon cameras. They capitalize on his rebel persona in their ads.

I am interested in our readers' views.  Do spokespeople influence you?  Have you used them to promote your business or products?  Was it a positive experience when you did?  Did you have riders in the contract limiting their personal conduct?

As for me, I am looking forward to the day when beauty contestants do post pageant interviews the way Nascar drivers do.  I want Miss USA to stand up and say “I would like to thank my parents for their love and encouragement.  Brandi my spray tanner at tan world for all her fabulous work, Dr Jones at Springfield Medi-spa for the amazing collagen work and Dr Hyatt, my cosmetic dentist.  As you can see this was truly a team effort to bring home the crown today”.

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