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Endorse Me, Endorse Me Not

Posted: October 26, 2014, 2:25 p.m.
by Jonae Shaw.

Professional athletes, by nature, are constantly in the public eye.

And brands, through strategic planning, constantly try to make their products stand out from others.

Thus, when a company uses the alliance of an athlete to support its brand, it should be a strategic match made in heaven(ly messaging). Right?

Not always.

Brands essentially pay to “borrow” athletes’ star power to create awareness and increase the use of their products or services. In turn, the athletes become living billboards for the brand. But just because they’re paid to represent a brand doesn’t mean they’ll solely represent that brand.

Let’s take the 49er’s quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, for example. Earlier this month, Kaepernick was fined $10,000 by the NFL for wearing pink Beats by Dre, after the NFL signed an exclusive agreement with Bose. However, Kaepernick was recently featured in Beats’ 2013 Hear What You Want ad campaign and is still under contract with Beats.

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Brand Endorsements

Honestly, I’m not concerned with whether Kaepernick’s fine was fair or not. Instead, I suggest a few short tips brands should consider when looking into athletic endorsement as a strategic message appeal.

Be aware of competing endorsements. The more popular the athletes, the more likely they’re in demand for endorsement deals with other brands. Research an athlete and any deals he may already have before you sign him, and then . . .

Be highly specific in your endorser contract. If possible, prohibit your athlete from signing new endorsements while working with your brand. And remember you’re the one paying him, so if he can’t abide by your rules, he may not be the right athlete for your brand’s plan.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If your athlete endorser decides to wear a competing brand out and about (or during a news conference), have other strategies of communication for your product available. This way, an endorser’s disloyalty doesn’t have a massive effect on your brand.

Understand that although they are endorsers, they’re still human. Athletes are not a controlled channel of communication. Select your endorser on the fact that he has the three Cs of effective communication: credibility, charisma and influential control over your audience. With that being said, you should still . . .

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worse. No matter how credible and charismatic, athletes can sometimes land themselves in a scandal. Recognizing and accounting for this risk can help you decide which athlete, if any, is right for your brand.


  1. Post comment

    Good post, Jonae. I like the Colin Kaepernick example you gave. It is extremely important for brands to be aware that sometimes an athlete’s team or program is in another contract. I agree with the tips you give brands when looking for athletic endorsement. I understand how prohibiting your athlete from signing new endorsements would be beneficial to your company. However, signing athletes or celebrities to a contract where they only endorse your brand is unlikely. They are trying to get more endorsements to obtain more money. I believe it would be more beneficial for your company to have them sign a contract that prohibits them from signing with your competitors’ brands.


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