When Your Brand is the Victim of an Epic Fail


20846299 - typography illustration poster of brand management wordsby Justin Grensing, Esq., MBA

Companies spend big money on celebrity endorsements. Nike alone spends billions of dollars on celebrity endorsements each year. Sometimes, the endorsements simply serve to bring publicity to a brand. Or they may entice consumers who want to emulate celebrities they respect. “A Taiwanese study shows that consumers show greater recall of products that have been endorsed by celebrities—regardless of whether they are actual fans or not,” says Guided Selling.

As the blog says: “The human brain recognizes celebrities similarly to how it recognizes people we actually know. The effect is that, if consumers happen to be fans, they place a higher value on products that celebrities are endorsing – it is as if they are receiving advice from a valued friend.”

Linking Brand to Performance

When it comes to celebrity athlete endorsements, the implicit argument advertisers are making is a bit more tangible: “our products will make you a better athlete.” Seeing elite athletes training or playing with certain shoes, golf clubs, or shirts, or recovering with certain sports drinks or supplements is intended to make us think these products can help us perform at a higher level. Rationally, we should recognize that the link between these products and performance is marginal at best, but brands work hard to forge that link.

When a Brand Fails

A recent, high-profile example, however, shows that this can be a double-edged sword. Any sports shoe company would be thrilled to have someone like Zion Williamson—Duke basketball’s star forward and likely top NBA draft pick—sporting their kicks. And Nike has a coveted position as Duke basketball’s exclusive supplier of uniforms, gear and shoes. But a poorly-performing shoe on national television caused a publicity headache and a stock price drop for Nike.

In an article for CNN, Nathaniel Meyersohn says that analysts are attributing Nike’s drop in stock value to the shoe fail. “Williamson left the game with a knee injury. Former President Barack Obama was sitting courtside, and clips of Williamson breaking his shoe and Obama pointing to it immediately went viral,” Meyersohn writes.

Nike quickly released a statement defending the quality of its products, and analysts have been skeptical that this freak accident will have any real long-term impact on the brand. But the example serves to illustrate the potential dangers of closely intertwining a brand with factors outside a company’s control.

It’s one thing to have a well-produced, carefully-edited commercial showing off a pair of shoes. It’s another to put them out on the court on live TV where, in the age of social media, epic fails now fail epically.

About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We are adept at evaluating and analyzing communication efforts and working with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content, through both on- and offline media to achieve desired results. Our background in business journalism, marketing, PR/media relations and online communications makes us well-positioned to serve the needs of 21st-century marketers.

We serve clients who are looking for help creating content for a wide array of channels—from social media posts to full-length manuscripts, and everything in between. We focus primarily on service-related B2B topics and work with a number of independent consultants interested in building their thought leadership through online channels. For ongoing content management, our first step is to fully understand your goals, objectives and competitive landscape.

Then we’ll conduct a thorough analysis and assessment of your digital presence, compared to competitors, and recommend a communication strategy to achieve your goals. But, we also regularly take on individual projects – white papers, blog posts, contributed articles, etc. If you’re interested in learning more, let us know!

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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