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11 January 2012

The danger of being a star-struck brand manager


Celebrity endorsements have long been a powerful marketing tool. Like all strategies, the idea of getting a famous person to act as a brand ambassador comes with its own unique pros and cons.  Lots of commentators covered this subject during the various indiscretions of Tiger Woods, which saw the professional golfer sacked from a number of lucrative ad contracts over his marital indiscretions.

But while some relationships do not end well, it is a sad fact of media that some partnerships are doomed from the start. Some are very successful and in some cases you have to wonder if it’s just a case of brand managers abusing their position to meet their favourite actors and pop stars.

Fiat and Jennifer Lopez

At the start of 2011, Fiat launched its new Fiat 500 campaign in the States, enlisting a dream spokeswoman in the face of Jennifer Lopez. After a few years in the pop wilderness, J-Lo was back in 2010 with a hit album and worldwide smash single. Her appearance as a judge on American Idol confirmed that her star was in the ascendant.

Jenny from the block got behind the wheel of Fiat’s re-imagined design classic and a 6-minute pop video full of Fiat, fast driving and fierce dance moves was a highlight of the campaign. Truncated 30-second TVC versions of the video emulated the single music video/TVC creative strategy so successfully employed by Heineken for The Entrance, earlier in the year.


Jen’s white convertible Fiat 500 is never far out of shot, and heavy product placement aside (it turns out J-Lo is also a Blackberry girl) it’s a great pop video [we love the bit from 3.40 onwards- Ed.], but is this really the right environment for Fiat? Does it really have any business being in this environment? One place Fiat certainly didn’t belong was on stage with Lopez at the American Music Awards. You can take product placement too far.

For the next ad, Fiat kept Lopez behind the wheel. In the My World TVC, Fiat returned to traditional car ad territory. Under the tagline, “Life is best when driven”, the new spot featured Lopez driving her Fiat around the streets of New York while she wittered phrases like, “they may just be streets to you, but to me, they are a playground”.

Both J-Lo and Fiat copped a fair amount of flack for the unsubtle nature of their relationship, and pundits were quick to point to the departure of Fiat’s North America boss Laura Soave as a signal that the brand had lost faith in Lopez. Indeed subsequent ads for the 500 were J-Lo free, and it has to be said – much more entertaining.

Perhaps I’m just a media snob – however unsubtle Fiat’s product placement tactics were, they seem to have translated into some impressive results

Burger King and Clive Owen 

The man that could have been James Bond is now the face of Burger King in Spain. Owen is no stranger to taking the brand buck. Years ago he starred in one of the earliest examples of a modern branded content project for BMW (starring none other than Madonna, no less). 

No disrespect to Mr Owen, but is he really that famous in Spain? Are there no domestic rugged-looking  matinee idol types? Can the man wolfing down a burger really be due to appear in a biopic of Ernest Hemmingway? 


 I'm sure it's funnier in Spanish, but to the uninformed observer, it just reminds me of those painful KFC ads starring Ivana Trump from the nineties. And his first branded outing was in such illustrious company too...


See also: More star-struck brand managers: Bizarre celebrity partnerships from Snickers and Nationwide. 

See more celebrity brand partnerships on Cream, featuring a funny, fake, computer generated and unwilling celebrity brand ambassadors. Oh, and Katy Perry. Make sure you register for an instant trial to get a closer look. 



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