Normative Ethics: Utilitarianism and Deontology
Should the companies that dropped Tiger Woods during his scandal now reinstate him?
Credibility and image are everything when it comes to marketing effectively using celebrity role models. Fact is the image of a celebrity can be tainted within a matter of minutes. Take for instance the latest events concerning Tiger Woods. While by law he was innocent until he opened his mouth and admitted his immorality companies such as Gillette, Gatorade, Accenture, and AT&T quickly began pulling endorsement deals from the table. The companies feared the bad publicity and the image consumers would now associate with Tiger Woods and his sex scandal. Not all of these companies admitted openly that this was the reasoning behind their decision to disassociate themselves from Tiger but as a consumer I don’t conceal my approval or opinion that they made the correct decision in doing so. I absolutely do not feel that any endorsements should be reinstated.
The most recognized way that agencies evaluate a celebrity’s ability to be an endorser or representative is source credibility. They recognize that consumers are individuals and the majority like myself are responsible for forming personal opinions, however lets not reduce the affect that media plays on that formation. Before the Tiger scandal it seemed in the media as though he could do no wrong and was known as the greatest golfer in the history of golf. Tiger may still be acknowledged as a great golfer but the media definitely uncovered and highlighted every dirty detail of his immoral behavior. If there was a chance that you had no idea who Tiger was or what he did as a profession. After the media’s coverage of his personal life the world knew he committed adultery.
Today 75% of endorsement contracts contain a moral clause that allows companies to exit without penalty in the event of an incident by the celebrity that greatly damages the company’s reputation. Often the “incident” is limited to criminal activity and previously it was not uncommon for the legal language within the clause to even mandate that an actual conviction of a crime be present before the deal is terminated. However, this is quickly changing.
Truth is when a popular athlete such as Tiger Woods makes a mistake or is even just faced with accusations of a crime these moral clauses are revisited extensively, because the end results and affects of such a marketing campaign that includes a celebrity endorsement can be detrimental to a company’s image. This is their way of looking for any and every means to protect themselves.
Let’s not downplay that current market situations indicate that celebrity endorsement advertising strategies can indeed justify the high costs under the right circumstances. However, the importance of a company and the duty that it has to protect its image and reputation that solidifies its brand. By ignoring allegations and credibility issues that are raised by the public regarding a specific celebrity endorser a company does their brand a disservice that can easily affect their bottom line and their message. That is why a company often does not differentiate between an accusation and a guilty verdict when it comes to the credibility of their endorser. This can cost a company millions of dollars. Because of this companies are depending more and more on a moral clause to protect them in endorsement contracts.
Tiger Woods’ estimated endorsements for 2010 are worth $22 million less than last year, according to Sports Illustrated annual analysis of the highest-earning American athletes.
Woods is still No. 1 on the list, as he has been for the rankings’ seven years. But his estimated total earnings of more than $90 million are down 30 percent from nearly $128 million two years ago.
In conclusion, arguments made on Tiger’s behalf are he is neither a public official who pledged to uphold the public trust nor does his personal life have anything to do with his job as a professional golfer. I agree with both statements however from a business approach those companies created a partnership with him they brought their image, brand and product and combined it with his to promote or sell a product. He absolutely has an obligation to not only the company that has partnered with him but all their consumers as well.