Mark Ritson’s column on the power of Steve McQueen to endorse brands and the lack of ‘authentic’ current brand ambassadors prompted online debate. Read Ritson’s column at Mwlinks.co.uk/RitsonMcQueen and see comment extracts below.
One sector that does endorsement well is charities. On the whole, celebrity patrons of charities tend to genuinely care about the cause they are getting behind. Yes it’s good PR for them, which can be viewed as their payment-in-kind, but most have a connected (usually sad) story to tell from personal experience. Some examples are: Katie Price (The Vision Charity); Gary Lineker (Leukaemia); and Nigel Owens (Bullies Out).
This works for brands which have enough cultural cachet for celebrities to buy in to them authentically. The brands you mention have that. Doesn’t quite hold true for brands like Nespresso, though.
You miss out the primary reason why Steve McQueen is a great endorsement. He’s dead. He is not going to mouth off in a Parisian café, get caught with his trousers down, Tweet inappropriately or do any of the things that living celebrities do to shame the brands they endorse. McQueen’s image is perfectly frozen in time, and unlikely to become besmirched in the manner of any living celebrity icon.
Paul Keers, Axon Publishing
Mark Ritson replies: Here are the names of contemporary celebrities who love a brand for personal reasons and promote it for no financial payment: Samuel L Jackson and Kangol hats; Jay Leno and Lotus cars; Al Jefferson (NBA star) and Subway; Eric Clapton and Fender Stratocaster (the amps); Lindsay Lohan and Topshop; Sofia Coppola and Marc Jacobs; Meryl Streep and Toyota Prius; Elizabeth Taylor and Bulgari (right up to the end); Jon Huntsman and Harley-Davidson; and Stephen King and the Chevrolet Volt.