By  on April 3, 2008

A celebrity face fronting a watch brand doesn't guarantee strong sales, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

Marketing budgets have swelled in recent years as brands look to actors, instead of models, for advertising campaigns. Many were quick to embrace the country's appetite for celebrity, but there are a few that are approaching it more cautiously, since the rules aren't always clear.

One of the pitfalls, for example, was highlighted during Charlize Theron's now infamous former relationship with Raymond Weil. The Oscar-winning actress signed a deal in October 2005 that stated she would only wear Weil's watches. During the contract, the actress was spotted wearing a watch from a competing brand. It was reported that Raymond Weil sued Theron for a substantial sum and the news was picked up by virtually every tabloid and media outlet with an interest in celebrity. The case is still pending in a federal court, a Weil spokesman said.

Rolex has been working with notable names in sports and music, including Roger Federer and Michael Bublé, for decades (Arnold Palmer, for instance, has been wearing Rolex on the golf course for 40 years). But it goes against the brand to work with the "It" girl of the moment or a hot celebrity. "We don't do short-term relationships," said a spokeswoman. "We align ourselves with people who are in the areas we support heavily, such as golf and yachting."

But the gold standard of celebrity tie-ups, according to some industry insiders, is Cindy Crawford's long tenure with Omega. The Swiss company was ahead of many of its peers when it tapped Crawford in 1995 to appear in its ads.

"It was quite daring in those days," said Stephen Urquhart, president of Omega.

When Crawford was hired, for a sum that Urquhart declined to disclose, the brand was actively trying to reach out to women, who at the time only comprised about 25 percent of sales.

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