We can't always rely on our favourite superstar
The news that Lucozade is to drop its long-running association with Lara Croft, star of the Tomb Raider game and movie dynasty, highlights the risks inherent in tying a product to a celebrity.
The pneumatic-chested adventurer's latest big screen antics have failed to impress at the box office. Gamers still love her, but her creator Eidos, has struggled over the last couple of years.
Brand managers and marketing professionals will reminisce over Helena Bonham-Carter's boast that she never wore make up (despite being the face of Yardley), and Jamie Oliver's admission that he never shopped at Sainsbury's, undermining a mostly successful campaign. Most painful was Woolworths' use of Paul Kaye, whose public self-loathing as a result ought not to be repeated here.
Human frailty being what it is, celebrity slip ups will occur from time to time. However, a celebrity's stock for the purposes of product endorsement can rise and fall over time. Associations with sports stars are the most risky. Every dominant sports star is going to lose eventually (Sampras, Faldo) or retire unexpectedly (Cantona, Borg).
Nike signed a five-year equipment endorsement deal with Tiger Woods in 2001, building upon its existing associations with Woods. Nike was keen to break into the golf equipment market (worth some £3bn globally). But golf consumers, are traditional in their choice of equipment, meaning small enterprises with long histories can compete on an (almost) equal footing with the big boys.
Even the multi-nationals play on tradition. Wilson continued to label its beginner clubs "Sam Snead" some 40 or so years after the recently deceased champion's retirement. Without a background like this, Nike would have been swimming against the tide, without Tiger that is. And what made Tiger especially apt was that, like Nike, in the early 90s he was a fresh breeze blasting though the world of golf.
Which is why it was all the more embarrassing when, after a run of poor form, Woods ditched his Nike driver for the Titleist 975D on which his career had been built. In an unguarded moment, speaking to Golf Magazine rival Phil Mickelson said "Tiger is the only player who is good enough to overcome the equipment he's stuck with." For its part, Nike stated that Woods could use any equipment he chose, and that they would be working with him on new designs imminently. Famously singleminded, if Woods felt he needed to switch, he would have whether Nike liked it or not.
Many regarded the Woods deal as excessive at the time. But in the multi-national market in which golf operates the saturation that the association with Woods provides is unparalleled. Every keen club golfer knows the make of equipment used by the world's top golfer. And Nike achieves that worldwide for about $20m a year. How else could the same level of brand recognition be achieved for that money?
Despite his playing difficulties this year, Woods remains golf's most saleable asset. But when endorsers like David Beckham can shave his head after signing up with Brylcreem, high levels of risk will be ever-present. Lucozade has not ruled out using Lara in future, but the Tomb Raider experience shows that even when the celebrity is virtual, she cannot necessarily be relied upon.
* Matthew Rippon is senior solicitor specialising in intellectual property and information technology at Watson Burton in Newcastle