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The birth of ‘anti’ sponsorship?

The way celebrity endorsements normally work is that a brand will identify someone with a high profile who is respected by core consumers and who embodies what the brand is all about, or wants to be all about.

It’s not always as straightforward as it sounds.

Some brands have teamed up with the most unlikely partners, while others have learned the hard way that celebrities are human too and that means they can make mistakes and decisions that you don’t want your brand associated with.

Not what Nike, Gillette et al signed up for

However, some marriages are made in heaven and can even lead to lucrative co-branded products such as the Nike Air Jordan range that was much desired by a young Zeitgeist.

Given how much kudos or harm a celebrity endorsement can do, Zeitgeist was piqued to read that Abercrombie and Fitch had suggested that they could pay MTV to not allow characters from Jersey Shore to wear their brands as the association was damaging.

One of the inherent dangers of being an aspirational or fashionable brand that is not priced to make it all but inaccessible to the very lucky few is that you will be worn by undesirables who want your brand to rub off on them.

This, combined with the modern phenomenon of reality TV shows and the glorification of the minor celebrity with limited talent but a huge thirst for fame, can result in a brand receiving more exposure from accidental off-brand associations than their much crafted paid for work.

It is to mitigate this kind of damage – and to generate some buzz – that Abercrombie and Fitch have made their proposal.

While offering to pay someone to not associate with your brand might be a simple solution and a reversal of the traditional model of paying someone to endorse your brand, it isn’t particularly creative and Zeitgeist can’t help but wonder it could actually be dangerous.

Now that a precedent has been set, will we now see the smarter minor celebrities attempt to ‘extort’ lucrative ‘anti-sponsorship’ arrangements with brands who would want nothing to do with them.

With marketing budgets already modest, we hope not.

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