Are Public Figures an Asset to Your Franchise?

February 21, 2017

We’ve all taken note when a celebrity comes to the stage for a product. How could you forget the iconic Air Jordans that dominated streets in the 80s and 90s? Every time you pass Chanel at the mall, images of Nicole Kidman in a stunning pink gown running through the streets of New York come to mind. Recently you might have even given Wild Turkey’s bourbon a second chance based on Matthew McConaughey’s behind-the-scenes look at the distillery. 

Endorsements make an impression.

The reason different brands knock on celebrities’ doors is because public figures can help rebrand businesses, make products memorable, create a specific company image through association, and ultimately improve the bottom line. 

The use of public figures isn’t limited to a certain type of business. Franchises have been dabbling in using celebrity spokespersons or creating a public figure since the beginning. While many have effectively presented the business’s message, there have also been a few famous flops.

If you’re toying with the idea of bringing celebrity weight to promote your franchise brand, here are few things to consider.


Identifying a Spokesperson

When narrowing down the options, there are two important considerations to evaluate. First, you need to be realistic about the money you are able to invest into the deal. Top names won’t lend their credibility unless there are quite a few zeros on the check. If you’re just starting out, that might not be in the budget.

Not landing the biggest name in town isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes lesser known personalities can have a strong following in a specific industry. Ever heard of Kelly Slater, Lindsey Vonn, or Olajide "KSI" Olatunji? While those names might not resonate with you, mentioning them to people in the surfing, skiing, or video gaming industries respectively will create quite a reaction. Olatunji, a video gaming You Tube Star, has created his own audience of 10.5 million subscribers. Any gaming industry would be giddy to tap into that base. 

The key is to pair your brand with a spokesperson who resonates with your ideal customer base. Windsurfing academies or dog walking companies won’t win any long-term fans through partnering with Olatunji.

There can be other objectives, such as reaching a younger demographic or helping spearhead a rebrand (insert Matthew McConaughey drinking Wild Turkey). The key is to identify your goals for a spokesperson and the type of customer they reach before beginning your search.


Vetting the Talent

No brand intentionally chooses a pedophile or accused wife killer to spearhead their messaging. Nevertheless, Subway found themselves with Jared while he was facing charges, and later plead guilty to, child molestation and child porn. Hertz did major backpedaling away from OJ Simpson as he headed to trial for the murder of his wife. Even after the acquittal, Hertz never looked back.

You can’t predict what your talent will do, but you can review their past with a fine-tooth comb. Before entering into an agreement with any public figure, make sure you’ve done proper vetting, which includes extensive background checks. Understanding their past behavior is your best bet to preventing similar unfavorable celebrity relationships.


Building Out an Agreement

One way to protect yourself against behavior that harms the brand is to have a morals clause in your agreement that allows you to terminate the arrangement without further compensation. You can build in certain behavioral standards that the public figure must maintain. In essence, you are purchasing their good reputation or public image. It’s reasonable to ask that they maintain it. 

Their ability to act quickly in part comes down to their agreement and behavioral stipulations they have with the talent.


Including It in the FDD

Prospective franchisees have a right to know who speaks for the brand. It’s likely they will conduct their own research on different spokespeople or celebrities you have deals with. That’s why it’s a required clause in the FDD. 


Considering a Different Type of Icon

Ronald McDonald will never make the news for murder charges. Jack from Jack in the Box will never take the lead in stories about pornography. For some companies, the risk of attaching your brand name to an individual person doesn’t fit into the business plan.

Public figures don’t make sense for every franchise. If you’re hesitant about lending your brand name to someone else or are not in a financial position to pursue celebrity endorsements, explore the option of creating your own icon.


Planning for Your Franchise

Whether you are currently spearheading a public figures contract or in the early stages of building out your FDD, there is one thing you need. That’s a good franchise lawyer. By partnering with an experienced lawyer, you can help position your growing company on a solid legal foundation.

As a co-owner in a franchise and with extensive experience in franchising, I help my clients avoid common franchising pitfalls. We focus on measures that position the company for long-term, sustainable growth. 

If you are thinking about franchising or are in need of a high-caliber franchising lawyer, contact me today.