Savile is a cautionary note for brand’s celebrity links

A few weeks ago, the late TV presenter Jimmy Savile was seen largely by the British public as a national treasure. Now his personal brand that supports the work of two charities – The Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust and Jimmy Savile Stoke Mandeville Hospital Charitable Trust – is being questioned after a series of allegations of abuse of young girls.


While nothing was proved during Savile’s lifetime, the allegations are causing both charities to look into changing their names. Both organisations are even said to be considering making donations to other charities that support victims of sexual abuse among other measures.

The real sadness of the story is obviously in the personal experiences of those involved, although it is impossible to put these accusations to Savile. But it is also a valuable lesson on allying your brand too closely with a celebrity.

The cautionary tales are everywhere. Many of Tiger Woods’ sponsors were quick to fall silent about their association once it became clear that the young, clean-cut golfer was leading a seedy personal life. Meanwhile, Hollywood actor Gilbert Gottfried was fired by insurance business Aflac for his insensitive tweets after the Japanese earthquake in 2011. Apparently, Aflac sources three-quarters of its revenues from Japan and Gottfried’s humour simply didn’t fit the brand’s serious handling of the situation.

Many brands are cutting down on the risks of using celebrities by adopting data-driven methods to choose them. A couple of weeks ago, we published a story about how celebrities’ social followings were being used to fit them to brands. Gala Coral had picked reality TV star and pop singer Peter Andre to represent its brand because they spookily share a similar social following.

You can read even more about the power of data to transform your business operations in this month’s Data Strategy. We look at innovations in how companies collect data from their customers and talk to Simon Kaffel, head of data and analysis at Zurich Financial Services, about his role. Kaffel is also a judge for the Data Strategy Awards, so if you haven’t entered yet, there’s still time before the extended deadline of Friday 19 October.

Not everyone is convinced that data is the way forward though. Our cover story looks at those instinct-driven ‘click’ moments when a brand comes to life. Some marketers argue it’s more about who you are than what you know. Let us know your thoughts!

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