NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Companies seeking exposure for their brands are known to shell out millions to get their products placed in movies and TV shows, but now one company is willing to pay to get its products removed from a TV show instead.
The company: Abercrombie & Fitch (Stock Quote: ANF). The show: MTV’s Jersey Shore. The company put out a cheeky press release Tuesday announcing that it had offered compensation to Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, one of the show’s stars, to get him to stop wearing the company’s products on the show.
“We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino's association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image,” a company spokesperson said in the release. “We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans.”
The press release seems to be at least in part a publicity ploy, and one that has garnered quite a bit of media attention. Still, Abercrombie wouldn’t be the first company to publicly wish for a negative brand association to disappear, and it’s not even the first time a company has fretted about appearing on Jersey Shore.
According to a report in the New York Observer last year, luxury handbag designers were furnishing the show’s Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi with their competitor’s products. The idea, evidently, was to keep their own bags out of the hands of the boozy reality star, and tarnish their competitors’ brands.
Abe Sauer, who writes for branding blog BrandChannel, says it shouldn’t come as a surprise that handbag designers and clothing retailers alike are loath to have their products featured on the show.
“Jersey Shore has a huge viewership, but I’d be willing to bet that 90% of viewers find the characters revolting,” says Sauer. “Brand association-wise it’s a poison, so I’m not surprised that Abercrombie & Fitch is willing to pay to get their products off the show.”
Whether the company will be successful in dissociating its brand from that of the reality show is another question entirely. Companies who made similar stabs at product un-placement have a mixed track record of success.
Take Cristal, a luxury brand of champagne produced by Champagne Louis Roederer. In an interview with The Economist in 2006, the company’s president, Frédéric Rouzaud, expressed ambivalence about the fact that the champagne had become popular with rappers.
“What can we do?” Rouzaud said of the brand’s association with rap culture. “We can't forbid people from buying it.”