I’m a big fan of using some kind of research in order to back up my statements, but I’m going with my gut on this one. It was inspired by this article in AdWeek, Are Brands Hostage To Endorser Scandal. The survey shows that consumers say they don’t feel that celebrity scandals have any effect on their perception of brands they endorse.
I don’t believe them. It’s the problem with self-reporting sometimes. People think that when a star like Tiger Woods is involved in a scandal that they don’t think it reflects badly on Nike because it wasn’t Nike who was sleeping around, after all. But, they don’t understand the psychological effects of association and how that’s what branding is all about. If Nike kept airing Tiger ads during the onslaught of “mistress” interviews, it would most definitely reflect negatively on Nike. No matter what consumers say, it’s not worth the risk.
But, I do think that it’s senseless when brands end endorsement deals following scandals. Hell, I actually think it’s counter-productive. They do so to tell the world, “Look, we don’t endorse this kind of behavior so we are no longer associated with this celebrity.” But in reality, I think it can have the opposite effect.
Consumers know that athletes like Tiger endorse Nike products so that Nike can sell more products, but when brands cut those connections when athletes are in the middle of scandals they’re showing just how artificial and shallow that relationship is. It says “We at Nike don’t really care about Tiger, we were just using him so you would think we were a great brand so that you would buy more of our products. Now that we can’t influence you to give us more of your money from this relationship, we have officially announced that we are ending this promotional relationship.”
In my opinion, they shouldn’t cut the endorsement deals and announce it. Just say something along the lines of “Tiger’s actions greatly trouble us,” and cut the ads from running until his image is restored.