O.J. Simpson and the Dangers of a Model Banking on a Celeb


Within the flush of obituaries following the dying of O.J. Simpson on Wednesday, media shops have discovered themselves trying again on one man—and plenty of careers.

There’s Simpson the Corridor of Fame soccer star and the actor who popped up in movies like The Bare Gun. There’s Simpson the sportscaster, franchisee, actual property investor and—memorably—the face of Hertz rental automobiles for a complete era.

And, after all, there was the person accused in 1994 (and later acquitted) of killing ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her good friend Ron Goldman, and who later served jail time for a 2007 kidnapping and armed theft in Las Vegas.

Simply as Simpson’s multifarious previous complicates how sports activities followers regard him, it’s prone to do the identical to the advertising and marketing group. As a result of whereas Simpson helped blaze the path for retired athletes to grow to be big-time model endorsers, he was an early instance of how perilous these offers can grow to be when a star spokesperson will get into hassle.

Hertz signed Simpson in 1975. For almost 20 years afterward, People watched TV spots that includes “O.J. Simpson flying by way of an airport as an example the corporate’s velocity of service,” ADWEEK reported in a 1980 story.

Professional athletes had shilled for manufacturers earlier than, after all, however Simpson’s gig was the primary to morph right into a pop-culture phenomenon. The Washington Submit would later time period him “Lease-a-Star.”

Keen to maintain factor going, Hertz prolonged Simpson’s contract to 1997. However not lengthy after homicide allegations in opposition to Simpson hit the information in June 1994, the car-rental large was mashing the accelerator to get away from him.

“Clearly, Hertz has no plans to make the most of Mr. Simpson in promoting,” a spokesperson informed the Washington Submit on the time.

Simpson arguably earned the six-figure paycheck that The New York Occasions reported Hertz paid him yearly. Shortly after his adverts started airing, Hertz notched a 56% improve in public notion of it because the main model in its class, based on a 1977 Rolling Stone story. However reducing Simpson free left a vacuum the place a advertising and marketing technique was once—and did few favors for Hertz’s picture.

It was a lesson that manufacturers would be taught time and again.

Olympian Michael Phelps adorned containers of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes however disappeared in 2009 after images surfaced displaying the champion swimmer toking on a hash pipe. When reviews of doping clouded biking nice Lance Armstrong in 2012, eight manufacturers he’d endorsed tore up his contract in a single day.

Self-destructing celeb endorsers are hardly restricted to athletes, both. In 2022, Adidas minimize free Ye (Kanye West) in 2022 following the rapper’s antisemitic tirade—costing it a reported $540 million.

Endorsements from celebs—star athletes amongst them—have since grow to be an indispensable a part of the marketer’s toolbox. However Simpson will all the time be a textbook case of the dangers manufacturers run when spending their advertising and marketing {dollars} on celebrities.