Inoculate the sponsorship of your socially-networked star

Starlight, star…bright?

Many contemporary superstars – celebrities, artists, athletes, etc. – are embracing social networking to enjoy direct, authentic dialogue with the public.  Today’s icons let thoughts flow through their fingertips, without the primping and protection of publicists or PR handlers.  This is a good idea for the thoughtful, who share information that is complimentary to their image.  However, this is a detrimental idea for those who expose a naiveté, bias or thoughts inconsistent with their image. 

For professionals who manage sponsorships with these stars, social networking creates accelerated risks.  From an issues and crisis perspective, I’ve long recommended “inoculation actions” for sponsorships.  Here are those actions,  applied to a sponsored star who is active on social networks:    

  • Reconnaissance.  When organizations enter sponsorship agreements, they typically take great pains to find iconic figures that embody its values.  The rise of social networking helps potential sponsors know more about these stars than ever before, before inking a deal.  When stars are already active social networkers, they provide great indicators on the benefits/risk of a sponsor’s investment, rather than relying on an agent’s good word.  If the star is not online networking, there’s still a steady “digi-logue river” that can be tapped, through hashtag or fan-page post searches. 
  • Risk planning.  Sponsors should assess worst-case scenarios and the ability to respond quickly if the sponsored star suddenly loses his Sheen (pun).  Bad actions by stars have always gained attention.  Today, controversy can also emerge through a star’s 140 keystrokes.  When this happens, the sponsor can easily get dragged into the quicksand.  Within minutes, the viral dialogue will grow and some will raise questions on whether the sponsor should continue to endorse the star (and, by extension, endorse his/her behavior) or whether corrective action is warranted.  Today’s sponsors must determine these pain thresholds in advance, as much as possible.
  • Monitoring.  In addition to normal media monitoring, sponsors are wise to keep a close watch on the direct and indirect online dialogue concerning their sponsored stars. 


Are there other risks involved in entering a sponsorship with a highly engaged, social networking star?  If so, please share them below and let me know if there are actions I’ve missed.

A few other items to note since the last post.

  • @KennethCole.  Much has already been covered about Kenneth Cole’s tweet and it’s implications, so there’s no need for me to rehash that here.  However, I like this report from the Harvard Business Review blog which points out the less obvious sin of Mr. Cole — the use of the hashtag was clearly an effort to insert an advertisement into a rather serious online dialogue.
  • TigerText.  Since many conversations today are in digital form and leave digital fingerprints, conventional wisdom suggests that secrets are tougher to keep.  Enter TigerText, a service that allows the transmission of text messages that disappear from sender and receiver’s devices, and from the  related servers.  This article from The Wall Street Journal (sub. required) provides some insight on practical applications (healthcare and banking industries), but you can bet that TigerText will also be debated because of the potential for nefarious uses. 
  • Toyota.  You may have seen the news that, officially now, there were no electronic “ghosts in the machine” that led to the sudden accelaration media frenzy of early 2010.  I’ll have to cover this in a future blog post, since I covered the Toyota situation in the past.  In summary:  Toyota is owed quite an apology from some media and some politicians…and the plaintiffs’ lawyers should not go unnoticed for their role in building the hype around this situation. 

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