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How not to sign up a brand ambassador

Bookmakers Better Bet have signed former Arsenal player Paul Merson as their new Brand Ambassador.  An interesting choice given that Merse claimed some time ago to have lost £7 million on gambling, which led to him being declared bankrupt in 2007. So why appoint a self-confessed [former] gambling addict as the face of a bookies?  Surely appointing Merson is like appointing La Winehouse as the brand ambassador for the Colombian Tourist Board.

Since those dark days of his, Merson has been a regular on Sky Sports News as a pundit on the Gillette Soccer Saturday show.  So I guess that must have been the clincher for Better Bet; sign-up a pundit that regulars down the pub can recognise and your in the money.  Because I am sure that many people would want to place a bet after seeing Merse, after all, what could go wrong with one little wager, eh?

Brand Ambassadors after all are by nature people that can help promote and advertise a product, company or brand.  They have an element of celebrity that can help the company promote itself and its products in a controlled manner.  They become the human face of the organisation, a person that clients and importantly potential clients can associate themselves with and can help drive sales.  Ambassadors have to be asprational characters that can help get the clients messages through.

Just look at how David Beckham helped Gillette increase sales even with all the gossip that was surrounding him at the time.  Sales of Gillette products in the Far East, where there’s still an obsession with all things Beckham, broke records.  The deal was put together by Hill & Knowlton’s London office and while it was claimed to be one the biggest sponsorship deals the client was pleased with the results of their association with a person that even today is making headlines wherever his career takes him.

Meanwhile, in a statement Better Bet said: “The customers love Paul and can relate to him.”  Before adding: “I don’t know about his gambling problem in the past. He doesn't hold an account with us or bet with us.”  It’s a kind of bearing your head in the sand after the horse has bolted (at the 3.15 at Lingfield no doubt.  Ed.) comment.

When researching candidates for the position of Brand Ambassador the first thing an in-house PR team or agency must do is analyse how candidates will affect the brand and reputation of their client or employer.  It appears that this hasn’t been done.

Sports sponsorship is an import tool in the PR armoury, especially in the US.  Get it wrong and you damage your brand.  Get it right and everybody wants a piece of the stardust that your ambassador brings to the company.

This is one to watch!

And if you want an alternative view on the deal then read 'Celebrity Sell Out's Altenative View of the Merson Campaign.'

***UPDATE***

Today, 26 March 2009, Betting firm Better have annouced that they have dropped their brand ambassador Paul Merson from the advertising campaign due to the large number of complaints they've received.  I wonder what they'll be saying to their PRs?  A serious and harsh word if I were them.

More here: "Betting firm drops Merson from ad campaign."

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