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George Anderson

Editor-in-Chief/Associate Publisher
RetailWire LLC

Lance Armstrong's Nike Deal Comes Crashing Down

October 18, 2012

FROM RETAILWIRE:
Nike tends to stand by the troubled star athletes who front its products far past the time when many other companies have cut and run. However, yesterday Nike announced that it was terminating its deal with Lance Armstrong. What lessons can retailers and brands learn from the way Nike handles problems that arise with its celebrity endorsers?      [more...]

MY COMMENTARY:

You almost have to be the size of Nike to deal with the downside of working with celebrity endorsers who, based on my experience, seem to have a sense of entitlement that most of the rest of us do not share. My message would be buyers beware when it comes to hiring celebrity talent. Here are a couple of horror stories from my past.

Many years ago while working for an advertising agency, we hired a coach of a championship professional sports team to be a spokesperson for a regional retail chain. The deal involved phoning in some copy for radio spots and appearing at a small number of store events over the course of the year. Everyone was happy until an event when said celebrity proceeded to hit on every female that walked through the door. One of the "hitees" turned out to be the wife of a very large corporate customer. Let's just say that the event was the coach's last for my client and the contract was not renewed.

Later, working as the marketing and merchandising lead at a wholesaler of electronic security products that operated stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, our CEO hired an Indy 500 racing legend to help "drive" company sales. At our very first event, the largest trade show of the year, the driver was set to show up, shake some hands and sign autographs of our new catalog for customers who represented about $80 million a year for our business. When he showed, 15 minutes later than scheduled, he refused to sign autographs unless he had a specific writing instrument. This led to people running to stores throughout Manhattan to find the desired pen. About 30 minutes later with writing instrument in hand and the line of people to our booth cut by more than half, he was ready to go. Of course, he was scheduled to sign autographs for a 90-minute period. He was very punctual when it was time to leave.

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