One of my undergraduate classes, Myths and Images in Mass Media, regularly explores the complex and extremely valuable structure of licensing, endorsements, tie-ins, and ancillary rights that can be built around some celebrities. At the same time that the celebrity’s image is created, nurtured, and protected, deal after deal is negotiated to exploit that image and profit from it.
This doesn’t require sainthood. There are celebrities cashing in whose carefully crafted and valuable image includes everything from outlaw to oddball. All that is required is that the celebrity outlaw or oddball have influence with some demographic group that a commercial interest would like to reach and exploit.
There are even a whole group of serious celebrity earners whose images are shaped and reshaped and exploited long after their absolutely final and irrevocable retirement, if you get my drift. In other words, Humphrey Bogart still does commercials.
Which of course leads to Tiger. Not much to say yet, but this will really be something to watch. How much will his personal problems tarnish the brand and how much of a price will he pay? Might we be on the verge of watching the ultimate case of celebrity brand fragility? Could his problems really bring down a brand this valuable?
Watch closely. There will be a lot to be learned here about celebrity, image, and commerce.