Tiger Woods, Celebrities And Nigerian Brands
Celebrity endorsements or tie-ins are a shortcut to brand-recognition and public awareness, but they are like two-edged sword that cuts both ways, says Jonathan Bernstein. “It seems that every celebrity has something in their past or present that has the potential to tarnish the brand, yet marketers and fund-raisers continue to see only the benefits of such tie-ins,” he adds
The issue of scandal has remained the most problematic for organizations, particularly charities, which feel they need strong endorsements to gain attention on a limited budget, but which are most vulnerable to being linked to scandal. Again charities have a way of trying to demonstrate social affinity and likeability that they fall, even more often, into the temptation of using celebrities for endorsement. Celebrity endorsements are good and seem like the fast track to recognition and success, but obviously, they are high-risk ventures to be entered into, only with eyes wide open (if at all).
According to Abe Sauer, “Much has been written about how Tiger Woods is in the gutter and how his sponsors are scrambling to do damage control or distance themselves from him. But the victim of his transgressions that stands to lose the most is the game of golf itself, or more specifically, the Professional Golf Association (PGA).”
For the last decade, the PGA has been buoyed – if not outright carried – by Tiger Woods. In many ways, Woods took the sport mainstream the same way Michael Jordan elevated the NBA a decade earlier. Thanks largely to Woods, PGA Tour prize money rose from $70 million in 1996 to $278 million this year. And now that Woods is taking an unpredictably long break from the sport, the PGA could be in serious trouble. How bad might it be? The sport experienced a taste a year ago when Woods took time off from the circuit for knee surgery.
In February, while Woods was in rehabilitation, the Buick Invitational event — which had enjoyed Woods’ participation for a decade — experienced a 30 percent drop in attendance. The PGA currently has 43 tournaments scheduled for broadcast in 2010. Network television has contracted to carry 33 of them with the Golf Channel slated to feature 10 more. The absence of Woods spells poor ratings for all. This should convince the PGA that diversification is in order — it can’t be dependent on one personality.
The NBA had a similar relationship with Michael Jordan. Quite possibly the greatest name in basketball history, Jordan took the NBA to a whole new global level. But then the NBA saw ratings suffer each time Jordan “retired.” And after he left permanently, the NBA seemed in limbo for years. It has only recently begun a robust recovery.
In Nigeria, the craze for iconic or celebrity brand endorsement is now catching on like wild fire. Consider Jide Kosoco, Omotala Ekin-Jolade and Sunny Nneji all for Chivita, Nkem Owo (Osuofia) Kanu Nwankwo, Jay Jay Okocha, Kate Henshaw-Nuttal, Joke Silver, Rita Dominic and others who have been signed on by different organizations to personify their brands. Though Nigerian brands may not have experienced any major scandal in the use of these celebrities, industry watchers still advise that the innate reputation, integrity and the character of the celebrities should be examined before engaging them to endorse the brand, to avoid the seeming scandal that has rubbed off on those brands endorsed by Tiger Woods.
Commenting on the type of celebrity that should endorse a certain brand, Howard Briggs, a Lagos based brand consultant says: “To a large extent, the type of product being promoted determines whether celebrity endorsement is the path to higher patronage and increased bottom-line. By celebrity here, I mean some of the famous actors and actresses in Nollywood. There are celebrities in other spheres who actually impact better on the bottom-line than movie personalities.
According to him, celebrities are ideal for consumer goods, children’s needs and lifestyle products, which are primarily targeted at women, children and students/ youth. These targets are more likely to watch the celebrities and will easily get influenced by their lifestyles. Ladies are likely to fathom the fashion in trend by watching their favourite screen queens. A bank should not, for instance, target high net-worth individuals by using celebrities because they do not symbolize wealth. But they can use them when launching products or services targeted at children’s education or encouraging a savings habit among the youth.
Continuing he thinks that, celebrities may be misapplied though. “For instance, using Chika Okpala (Zebrudaya) to advertise drugs or medicines does not fit when juxtaposed against his public image. Using Desmond Elliot to promote Harp does not fit even though you can regard him as the real man. I am not sure he drinks lager. Does Kate Henshaw-Nuttal cast the image of a typical Nigerian housewife? Nkem Owoh (Osuofia) should be more at home with Guinness and Nigerian Breweries (not soft drinks please) instead of a toilet disinfectant.”
The incisive use of celebrities as brand surrogates is still at its infancy in the country. As more organizations use this platform for marketing brands, more experience will be garnered, anchored on professionalism and marketing acumen.
Overall, brand managers are encouraged to be creative in selecting who endorses their brands. They should also be very careful in the choice because the tendency for a celebrity to fall into scandal is very high and cost must be counted before signing on for endorsement. Every brand lives on reputation and no brand can afford to smear itself with the rubbish of societal scandal.
However, so far so good for brand endorsement in Nigeria. We hope the lessons of the Tiger Woods of this world can be learnt and in good measure too.