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Endorsements are more than PR props

This was originally posted in the July 20, 2021 SIDEbar newsletter. To subscribe, visit and click on the envelope in the lower right-hand corner of the page.

George Clooney is true to his acting and tequila. Although Casamigos was acquired by Diageo in 2017, his story is of product lore because he and a friend did extensive research and taste-testing to find a tequila he could enjoy.

Casamigos is one example of a celebrity who’s true to a brand. Not all are, but then not all actually sit in the proverbial lab adding a dash of this and pinch of that to achieve perfection. The bottom line is that audiences increasingly see through people who endorse products they don’t believe in. In the case of drinks, whether libations or electrolytes, consumers think “if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.” 

Where’s the PR part? This spurred a thought, and it wasn’t about tequila (really). Will college athletes sign on dotted lines and take money from any business (assuming those businesses have been carefully vetted, per last week’s SIDEbar) or will they be choosey and only work with businesses with visions they share and products they use?

During this thought inferno, up popped Go Long With Tyler Dunne who wrote about a Green Bay Packers quarterback that NFL fans may not know much about. Yet.

Kurt Benkert is big in the gaming space. Really big. He signed with the Packers as an all-pro in Fortnite and with a strong social media following. How he spoke about his sponsors intrigued me. I contacted Benkert and he was kind enough to elaborate. 

“The content I create off the field is supported by brands that I’ve built relationships with,” he said. “A lot of these relationships started with products that I already liked and used, and once I got bigger, free products turned into paid sponsorships. I’ve turned down a lot of money from other companies because I don’t necessarily use their products or I’m not really passionate about them.

“So for me, I truly enjoy promoting products/companies that I can wholeheartedly tell fans and followers that I love and support.” 

NIL dealmakers take note Benkert’s words hit like a warm and fuzzy because in sports and entertainment industries, we know big money talks and it often drowns out reality. And now that college athletes can monetize their names, images and likenesses, I suggest they stay true to themselves when choosing businesses to represent. They’re young and new to the business part of the game, and I feel like they will benefit from dare I say, authenticity.

“Your endorsement is your name,” said communications specialist Nkeshi Free. “Years ago, rapper Petey Pablo mentioned several beverages in his songs and he said he used their names because they drank them and they paid him.” 

“By the same token Cristal Champagne specifically put a ban on rappers and celebrities endorsing its product. Rappers and their fans were not the target audience for the champagne company. It was originally created for the Czar of Russia and therefore, as a company, they felt that rappers devalued the product, so endorsements and non-endorsements go both ways.”

Awful Announcing associate editor and media reporter, Ken Fang added, “If an athlete is truthful about using the product, then I feel it will help him/her.”

Get real – it’s good PR As consumers, we are attracted to people and products we know, like and trust, and athletes’ and celebrities’ words or referrals hold weight, which is why they’re paid for endorsemets and influence. Endorsements become part of their brands — how they’re viewed by the public. From a marketing and publicity standpoint, the most effective endorsements are from spokespeople that relate to a product or service.

“I can’t sell out for a paycheck just to promote any ol’ item,” Benkert said. 

College athletes — and other professional athletes — might want take note from this streaming sensation. He’s one person you can count on to be real with all of his games.


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