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4Feb/100

What Do Celeb Endorsement Say About Your Brand?

There's a bit of a hierarchy when it comes to which celebs get which cars from manufacturers.

Although its never clear just what incentives there are for a 'sleb to be pictured next to a shiny new car, it's clear that there's generally more to it than a quick snap as the celebrity in question picks up his or her latest drive.

Samuel L Jackson got a brand new Maybach 57, which though vulgar is an extremely valuable piece of kit. A couple of years ago, down the road from Dagenham and on the verge of making it into the England cricket team, Essex players Alistair Cook and Ravi Bopara got a Focus ST each. Not bad, but no Maybach.

Take That got a VW Caravelle; Spandau Ballet a Ford S-Max each; while From The Jam had to cram into a Kia Sedona. Bluntly, the more important you are, the better car you get. Many manufacturers appoint brand ambassadors to drive their cars and take part in certain marketing events, in exchange for a shiny new set of wheels.

Seat has - or had - Duncan James, otherwise known as the bloke from Blue who's now on that awful school musical show. He bagged a Leon Cupra from Seat. Here's how we reported the news a couple of years ago:

James goes on to describe the Leon Cupra as ‘very cool’, which he ‘really enjoys driving’ before concluding ‘I love it!’

Jaguar sponsors the England cricket team, which is a nice bit of positioning for both parties. That Waitrose is England's other main sponsor has a nice ring to it too. Lids, Fosters or Chevrolet - dare I say it, would not be such good fits.

Meanwhile Mercedes has - or had - Wayne Rooney, who took delivery of a CL63 AMG. This actually caused a bit of a stink from snobs who worried that the swarthy scouser may not exactly be a direct fit for Merc's brand image. Here's what Peter York reckoned:

"Ordinarily you'd expect Mercedes to choose someone aspirational and classy to advertise its cars, and it's fair to say Wayne Rooney doesn't fit that category."

"It's extremely strange. You have to ask who chose him? Was it someone who has misunderstood his image or was it perhaps a calculated move to ensure people talked about it?

"It's possible it will backfire and put off traditional Mercedes customers - but perhaps their choice of Rooney reflects the fact that the kind of people prepared to spend a fortune on a smart car nowadays are not particularly smart people."

So, manufacturers have to be careful over who they work with. Jordan, for example, is unlikely to be endorsing a Rolls-Royce Ghost any time soon. Nor do we expect to see Brian Sewell hooning around Millbrook in an Evo X, though we'd like to.

Fiat doesn't seem too worried about who it associates itself recently, with a string of celeb endorsements from the likes of Angela Griffin, Elle MacPherson and now Tom Chambers (some bloke out of Waterloo Road and Strictly Come Dancing).

All are photogenic, mainstream and inoffensive. Here's Fiat on the latest tie-up:

Actor and reigning Strictly Come Dancing champion Tom Chambers celebrated his return to television this week by collecting a new Fiat 500C.

The actor has been driving a 500 hatchback – recently voted Best Supermini in What Car? magazine’s Reader Awards 2009 – since last Christmas, but planned to swop into a 500C after the car’s UK launch in July this year. Tom and his wife Clare also own an early Fiat 500.

“As an actor, my work takes me to locations all over the country and it’s really important to have a car that can take me there comfortably, reliably and certainly economically. And it helps that it’s a stylish little number too!"

So, it's not for us to say where Tom may find himself on the auto endorsement scale, and that's not to decry the 500C or Chambers - it's just a recognition that some cars, and some celebs, are grander than others.

And speaking of...OPEN SESAME!

biggins peugeot

30Nov/090

“You Were Miles Offside” – Totti V Heskey Advert

totti fiat car advert

As it goes this ad, which played during the 2002 World Cup, isn't that bad. Francesco Totti finds himself playing footie, alone, in his back garden – rounding imaginary opponents before slotting the ball into what appears to be a child's goal - as is his wont.

Depending on where in Europe you lived at the time Totti in his live commentary references Christian Vieri or Michael Ballack on his way to scoring: "Totti beats Ballack; nutmegs Vieri" and so on. This becomes important later. What will also become apparent is who Il Capitano tackles in the UK version.

His imaginary game of solo footie over, Totti leaps into his Fiat Stilo – an appalling car – and zooms off down the road, just like every multi-millionaire footballer. Stopping at some lights, Totti notices a message on the Stilo's multimedia screen. Why, it's Vieri (or Ballack) taunting Totti by revealing that he was offside (or warning him not to count his chickens in the German version) all along in his fictitious soccer match. All of which is quite smart and fairly well-executed, if you ignore the obvious absurdities inherent in it.

totti heskey fiat advert

What tipped this over the edge was the UK version. Who had Fiat signed up for this amusing battle of Europe? David Beckham perhaps? Or Michael Owen? Moving down the food chain a little, but still a name, perhaps it was Big David Seaman? Nope. Not even close. Not even Paul Scholes. The man lined up by Fiat to represent Engand in this ad – against Totti, Vieri and Ballack – was Emile Heskey.

Now, the much-maligned Heskey has his strengths in my book. His unselfish style, physical attributes and hold-up play to name three. But did Totti even know who Emile Heskey was? Is it that likely that the two would swap matey footballing banter via text message? Is that why Heskey felt the need to sign off with a cheery 'Emile Heskey'. More to the point, how did Heskey know about this impromptu game that Totti was enjoying in his own back garden? There are more questions than answers, as anyone who watched A Question of Sport in the early 1990s will know.

Perhaps the biggest question of all is whether, even years later, Totti has ever heard of Emile Heskey.

Sadly history does not record the Heskey version. I couldn't find it anywhere. Maybe Heksey has a copy.

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