A pot smoking Michael Phelps illustrates now celebrities change from brand ambassadors into liabilities, especially in China where audiences tend to be less forgiving compared to the US, writes Shaun Rein in Forbes.
But brands like Omega and Visa that support Phelps are finding their image in China truly damaged, because attitudes towards drug use are much more conservative there than in the U.S. As one 34-year-old Beijing woman said, “I’ve lost all respect for Phelps, even though he’s a great athlete.”
China has seen a long range of celebrity scandals, from Christian Dior’s Sharon Stone, who blames the Tibet issue on bad karma. Shaun Rein:
Of course, celebrity endorsements do work sometimes, for instance for Nike with Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Those relationships work because they make sense. People wear Air Jordans because they think they’ll help them play basketball just a little bit like Mike. People use Nike golf gear to hit that ball a little bit straighter and farther, a little more like Tiger does.