How important are celebrity endorsements? Should celebrities be punished for their actions when it comes to representing a brand? Professional swimmer, Michale Phelps was recently caught having a little too much fun last November while partying at The University of South Carolina. Along with the alcohol he consumed at a party he was also caught taking a hit from a bong that was being passed around.
Celebrities are constantly in the public eye. Phelps was caught participating in activities (smoking pot) that would not reflect well on the Kellogg’s Co. brand that “has a commitment to nutrition, health, and quality” . If he is under a deal with them, is he constantly representing the brand? Personally, when I saw the photo of Phelp’s hitting the bong I didn’t think about Kellogg’s Co. I will admit though if I was eating a box of Kellogg’s cereal with his photo on it, I would probably think about him smoking weed.
Celebrities are constantly in the public eye, and everything they do or say is judged. Of course someone is going to attempt to capture a photo of Phelp’s smoking. For a typical college student that would probably be “the tightest picture ever.” Everything he does is going to be reflected on the brands that represent him. Therefore, I completely agree with Kellogg’s decision. As a celebrity, you can’t go around hitting off of bongs and not except to be reprimanded for it.
Kevin Adler, founder of Chicago sports marketing firm Engage Marketing, commented, “Athletes are brands. If you do something that runs contrary to your brand image, it will affect your ability to monetise that brand image. It really is that simple.”
Steve Crescenzo, author of Corporate Hallucinations holds a different opinion on the matter. Crescenzo believes that “Kelloggs Co. is loosing the best spokesperson they ever could have asked for.” He commented in his blog, “These people had the perfect pitchman for their products, and they blew it. Instead of cutting Phelps loose, they should have built an entire ad campaign around him.”
These different view points are very interesting. Crescenzo is arguing that Kelloggs Co. should take advantage of this opportunity to frame their ads, while Adler argues that Phelps should have thought about his endorsement with Kelloggs Co. before affecting his deal by getting high.
So, in the end, I feel bad for Phelps. He is a young man and just wanted to have a little fun. As a college student I know that going out and “partying” with friends is a way to relieve stress. Normal students can do that on the weekends, and do not necessarily have to deal with the consequences. Phelps has the whole world watching him, and he better bet if people see him hitting a bong, they will definitely capture the moment and make sure everyone else knows about it too.
Does Kelloggs Co. want to support illegal drug use? I would argue, definitely not.