Risks of Celebrity Sponsors
Companies are using actors, prominent sports figures and other celebrities to endorse their products more than ever before.
However, while they may generate lots of publicity around a product or service, not all of it is good publicity.
You only have to open up a copy of the newspaper to read about scandals engulfing stars such as Bill Cosby, Brian Williams or Tom Brady with the New England Patriots’ ‘deflate-gate’ saga.
Sponsors have reacted by withdrawing their support, most notably in the NFL, where domestic violence allegations hanging over the sport prompted Procter and Gamble to pull the plug on a deal to supply players with pink mouthguards during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and cancel all on-field marketing.
The risks for any sponsor associated with this type of negative publicity are infinite, said experts, often resulting in the cancellation of lucrative advertising and marketing contracts, ultimately costing the company millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Worse still, the sponsor may be forced to pull its product from the market altogether, with the end result that millions of dollars are wiped off its share value.
The main risk of hiring a celebrity to endorse a product is the unexpected or disgraceful behavior of that individual, or unforeseen events such as death. — Lori Shaw, executive director, entertainment practice, Aon Risk Solutions
Lori Shaw, executive director of Aon Risk Solutions’ entertainment practice, said the main risk of hiring a celebrity to endorse a product is the unexpected or disgraceful behavior of that individual, or unforeseen events such as death.
“The first step is to analyze the potential risks, discuss ‘what if’ scenarios; outline the financial consequences; and to be aware of the risks that can be avoided, those that can be transferred contractually to the celebrity or talent, those that can be transferred to insurance and the risks that must be retained,” she said.
Shaw said that companies need to take a holistic approach to their branding and marketing activities in order to assess the potential impact of any adverse publicity on their balance sheet.
Nir Kossovsky, CEO of Steel City Re, a corporate reputation measurement and risk management specialist, said another major problem of negative publicity is the damage to a company’s reputation.
“The primary risk is that an adverse behavior at an event or by a celebrity will be viewed by stakeholders as a reflection of that company’s culture, values or operational ineptitude,” he said.
“In this situation where the stakeholder holds the company culpable for any such action, often they will respond by altering their future expectations and exercising their financial clout, usually to the company’s detriment.”
Kossovsky said that, rather than calculate the potential risk, sponsors need to first determine the value gained from the sponsorship deal, and the costs of acquiring that value.
Then they must assess the costs of communicating to stakeholders the steps it took to mitigate against any adverse events and publicity that may occur, he said.
“There are two instances when a company should walk away from a deal,” he said.
“The first is if the costs of a parallel communication strategy coupled with the direct costs of sponsorship outweigh the value of the expected gain.
“The second is if, on objective reflection, there is a compelling case that the average stakeholder will hold management culpable for an adverse event no matter what the management says to the contrary.”
To mitigate against these risks, corporations are increasingly turning to specialized insurance plans and writing clauses into their contracts allowing them to cancel a deal if the celebrity is considered to have acted in an inappropriate manner that may damage the company’s brand.
Recently, AIG launched a new policy protecting sponsors that hire celebrities to endorse their product.
Celebrity Product RecallResponse is triggered by any “actual or alleged criminal act or distasteful conduct” from the celebrity that has a significantly adverse impact on a company’s product.
It covers certain costs incurred by companies to remove or recall those products bearing the celebrity’s name and image, as well as the costs of removing advertising.
“In this age of social media and instant news,” said Jeremy Johnson, president and CEO of Lexington Insurance Co., which provides the policy, “reports of indiscretions by celebrities or high profile athletes can spread worldwide instantly, with swift, adverse implications for products or brands associated with the individual.”
Unseen Costs of Measles Outbreak
By now, we have all heard about the measles outbreak in California. We have heard both sides of the vaccination “controversy,” even though all of the evidenced-based research findings are uncontroversial.
What you probably haven’t heard much about is the immense time, effort and expense expended by health care providers and the public health department to respond to a known or suspected case of measles.
When a person begins to experience the signs and symptoms of measles, it is likely that they will seek medical care.
If the medical staff is aware that the patient may have measles they can take precautions like masking the patient and physically isolating them from others to prevent the spread of infection.
In reality, however, the health care providers might not suspect a patient is infected until a medical professional has performed a physical examination and taken their history.
A known or suspected measles exposure triggers a cascade of response activities.
Facility staff must identify the infected patient (the index case), interview the patient to determine where he or she has been, who they might have come in contact with, and whether or not they were masked, and at what point.
Any person who has shared air space with an un-masked measles patient is considered at risk of exposure.
The response costs to a potential measles exposure have been calculated at as much as $100,000 per event in lost productivity and remediation expense.
While waiting one to two days — or up to a week — to get results from measles serology and PCR analysis, facility or public health department staff compile a list of any patients who likely shared air space with the index case.
These are primarily patients who had appointments proximal to the time and location of the index case and for one hour afterwards, who may have shared a waiting room area.
Obviously, this is an incomplete list, as it cannot possibly include contact with individuals in public places like elevators, restrooms, etc.
If measles is confirmed, every patient who is at risk of exposure must be contacted. The clinic or public health department may offer prophylactic MMR vaccinations to any exposed patient who can’t produce documentation of immunity, but that is only effective for 72 hours post-exposure.
If an exposed patient can’t produce proof of immunity and can’t obtain a prophylactic vaccination within the 72-hour time window, the public health department may order them quarantined for 21 days.
The response costs to a potential measles exposure have been calculated at as much as $100,000 per event in lost productivity and remediation expense.
It introduces cost and inefficiency into the health care system, a system that many already criticize as being costly and inefficient. Measles is on the rise, from under 200 documented cases in 2013 to nearly 650 in 2014, and 102 documented cases in January 2015 alone.
An exponential increase in measles will tax the system to the point where it will not be able to respond effectively, leaving our most vulnerable at risk.
And unfortunately, those most at risk from an exposure are exactly the types of people most likely to be found in hospital and clinic waiting rooms.
Sparking Innovation and Motivating Millennials
Two trends in the insurance industry, if they continue, could compromise its vitality in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven business world: slow innovation and a scarcity of millennial talent.
The quests to develop innovative solutions and services and to recruit young people to the field have raised concerns in the industry for several years, causing some insurers to think about how they will stay viable in the future when senior-level managers begin to retire.
But Lexington Insurance Company, a member of AIG, may have found a way to spark innovation that also engages millennial minds.
Innovation Boot Camp started three years ago as a one-off project meant to identify young, high-potential employees, give them exposure to senior management and evaluate their teamwork and leadership capabilities.
“The original concept was fairly straightforward. We would bring together a group of about 30 high potential employees for some semblance of team project work and it would allow management to gauge and assess talent,” said Matt Power, Executive Vice President, Head of Strategic Development, Lexington Insurance.
Little did he know how well the program would not only generate a plethora of innovative ideas that would drive the company forward, but also reinvigorate younger employees.
“The boot camps would be focused on innovation, with the idea that if we ended up with a concept or product that we could commercialize, then the boot camp would have been effectively self-funded. When they came back at the end of the 12 weeks, we were absolutely shocked because they produced about half a dozen products that have since been commercialized and are in some phase of being rolled out.”
— Matt Power, Executive Vice President, Head of Strategic Development, Lexington Insurance
New Ideas Emerge
The inaugural Innovation Boot Camp began with a two-day kick off meeting for participants— consisting of six teams with five or six participants. Each team was tasked with developing a business plan, and began to connect virtually over the next 12 weeks. The plan would culminate in a presentation to a senior management judging panel at the program’s conclusion.
“The boot camps would be focused on innovation, with the idea that if we ended up with a concept or product that we could commercialize, then the boot camp would have been effectively self-funded,” Power said. “When they came back at the end of the 12 weeks, we were absolutely shocked because they produced about half a dozen products that have since been commercialized and are in some phase of being rolled out.”
Power credits the program’s success in part to the participants’ youth. They were tuned in to different trends and issues than their more experienced counterparts.
Cyberbullying, for example, was a problem that didn’t exist for Power and his contemporaries as they grew up, but was salient for millennials. Based on the presentation of one group, Lexington developed coverage on their personalized portfolio for exposures associated with cyberbullying.
Likewise, “they educated us on the emergence of the craft brewing industry and how rapidly it was growing in the U.S.,” Power said. “That led to us launching a whole suite of products for craft brewers.”
Another team brought forth the concept of how rapid sequencing laser photography could be used to create a three-dimensional picture of a construction work site. That would allow contractors or claims managers to virtually walk through the site at a given point in the construction process to identify deviations from the original blueprint plans.
The images could memorialize the building process down to the millimeter, to every screw and wire. If a loss emerges later on due to a construction defect, the 3D map would be a valuable investigation tool.
Innovation Boot Camp proved so successful that Lexington expanded it to other arms of AIG all over the world.
“Suddenly we started getting calls from London, Copenhagen, Brazil,” Power said. “We were doing these programs for our global casualty team, for our lead attorneys in New York, for our financial lines group, and so on. We recently embarked on the 16th iteration of this program in London, with additional programs in the works.
“It’s a journey that has evolved from trying different things and not being afraid to fail, not being afraid to try new ways of thinking about the business.”
Engaging Millennial Minds
In addition to generating new product ideas, Innovation Boot Camp also engages younger employees more fully by offering the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the company through independent work that requires some creative thinking.
Past participants are often great crusaders for the program.
“A program like IBC is something rarely seen at a large corporate conglomerate, and really a concept for new age startup companies,” said Alyson R. Jacobs, Vice President, Broker and Client Engagement Leader in AIG’s Energy & Construction Industry Segment. “But we were given a chance to work with people of all different professional backgrounds, and that environment unearthed concepts and solutions that have made a significant impact in the lives of our insureds and their employees.”
The chance to do work that makes a difference, both for the success of their company as well as the clients its serves, is what attracts millennial employees to the program and motivates them to devote their best effort to the project.
“Millennials want to be able to share their ideas and make meaningful contributions at work,” Power said. “Innovation Boot Camp has evolved into the perfect forum for that.”
David Kennedy, Esq., Product Development Manager for Lexington Insurance and former Coach for two Innovation Boot Camps, said the program engenders an “entrepreneurial spirit of developing something new, of applying analytical rigor to emerging risks to create unique and timely solutions for our clients and the marketplace.”
Exposure to senior executives doesn’t hurt either.
“It provided a platform for me to not just interact with our Senior Executive leadership but present a concept that could potentially be adopted by our company in the future,” said Ryan Pitterson, Assistant Vice President, AIG. “It helps to build your internal network, elevate your profile in the company and connects you with our client base as well.”
At a time when recent college graduates choose employers based on how much opportunity they’ll be given to have meaningful input — as well as opportunities for advancement — projects like Innovation Boot Camp could be the answer to the insurance industry’s struggle to pull in millennials.
“We give them the time, space and resources to create something new,” Power said. “When employee engagement is done right, it inspires passion and creativity.”
As multiple arms of AIG adopt Innovation Boot Camp around the globe, both the quantity and quality of new ideas are bound to flourish.
“The bottom line is, many heads are greater than one, and AIG has figured out how to leverage this. AIG hears their employees’ voices and enables those ideas to take our company into the future,” Jacobs said.
To learn more about Lexington Insurance, visit http://www.lexingtoninsurance.com/home.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Lexington Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.