Perception Meets Reality: The Danger of Celebrity Endorsements

Celebrity endorsements have been a staple of marketing and advertising for decades.

But you know the drill. Today’s superstar can become tomorrow’s liability.

Let’s just ask the companies who had Lance Armstrong, Dennis Rodman, Michael Vick and others if they regretted the spokesman choices they made. Look at the past few weeks where those who affiliated with “The Donald” have tried to distance themselves as fast as possible.

At Hirons, we’ve been asked by various media sources to weigh in on the Jared Fogle and Subway controversy. The pitchman for subs had his house raided by various law enforcement agencies searching for evidence in an on-going investigation. Fogle’s foundation executive director was arrested recently on various charges related to child pornography and exploitation. I guess it’s not too hard to connect the dots. Obviously, it’s an active investigation and the police aren’t saying much…yet.

When the news hit and cameras were tuned to Fogle’s driveway where investigators were busy taking electronic equipment in and out of his house. Certainly good visuals for television. Not so good for Jared.

Immediately as events unfolded, reporters starting calling us about going on camera to discuss the issue from a public relations standpoint. Most of the questions centered on whether Subway should immediately cut ties with Jared and start damage control as soon as possible.

It always amazes me how quickly people rush to judgement and “assume” a whole heck of a lot.

Our team went to work and did a variety of live and taped interviews. Initially, we talked about how it was “premature” to condemn Mr. Fogle and for Subway to can him. Simply put, there was little information from which to work.

Subway did not immediately fire Jared. They did mutually agreed with Fogle to “suspend” the relationship. That’s smart thinking: Don’t overreact but distance the company away from him.

But sadly comes the harsh reality. Our tried-and-true equation of perception verses reality was working on the public’s mindset from the moment they heard the news. Is Jared guilty of anything? I certainly don’t know, and I doubt there’s more than a handful of people who may know the truth. But the damage is already done. See, human nature is a tricky thing. We want to fill in the blanks, get closure and rationalize just about everything. That’s the way we are wired.

It’s pretty much a done deal for Jared when it comes to being a pitchman. He’s finished. Even if he’s totally innocent, there will be no more Jared holding up monster pants or smiling in a Subway restaurant line.

You may have heard the old saying, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Well, we’d better ask Jared about that.

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