The linking of celebrity and brand can be a powerful tool in shaping the perception of a brand in our minds.  It explains why fashion brands often issue press releases name-checking the latest celebrity to be spotted out and about wearing its clothing.

However, recent headlines have highlighted that not all links between a celebrity and a brand are desirable.  It has been widely reported that Abercrombie & Fitch Co offered to make payments to cast members of the MTV show “Jersey Shore” in return for the cast members refraining from wearing Abercrombie & Fitch clothing.  This was due to their concern that, by sporting its clothing, Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino “could cause significant damage” to the brand’s “aspirational nature”.

Stories about unwanted associations between celebrities and fashion brands more commonly hit the headlines when a brand wishes to get out of a contract (under which the celebrity is paid to advertise and wear their brand).  The brand’s desire to end the contract is usually triggered by a change in the celebrity’s fortune or the celebrity’s behaviour.  Either way the brand thinks that the celebrity is no longer a suitable brand ambassador.

From the brand’s perspective, no matter how promising the association looks set to be at the outset, it should make sure that the contract contains adequate provisions to enable the brand to exit the relationship with minimal fuss.

Top tips for a smooth ending to a celebrity endorsement contract:

  1. Do your homework: a brand should be wary about associating itself with a celebrity with a history of behaviour that is not in-keeping with the brand’s values.
  2. Morality clause: sign a contract which contains a clause allowing the brand to choose whether or not to terminate the contract if the celebrity engages in activities which harm the reputation of the brand.  If there are particular activities that the celebrity is to avoid, then list these out in the contract.
  3. Include in the contract a statement that the celebrity must return all clothing, accessories and other branded products provided by the brand within a certain period of time after termination.  On a practical level, this will reduce the likelihood of the celebrity being photographed wearing the brand following termination of the agreement.

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