If you look hard enough, you can find celebrities or pseudo-celebrities endorsing all sorts of products. If you have enough money to splurge on the requisite fees, stars of stage and screen and the athletic arena will pitch your wares to audiences, and the more money you have, the bigger the star will be. I don’t know that I’ve ever been swayed by a celebrity endorsement precisely for the fact that I know they’re being paid for their endorsement, but the star factor is enough to at least have the ad and brand stick in my brain, which may be what these companies are hoping for after all.
There’s another route you can go if you lack both the money for an endorsement and any measure of fear of legal repercussion, and that’s using the likeness of a celebrity or a character without permission from the individual or business. It’s a risky gambit, but on the other hand, it almost never works out!
It’ll likely be a hard-earned lesson for a cannabis company in Massachusetts that tried to use an image of Borat on a billboard to sell some weed. For their efforts, Solar Therapeutics is being sued by Sacha Baron Cohen for copyright infringement, among other charges. Baron Cohen is of course the creator and performer behind Borat, and while the Kazakh reporter character has gotten into any number of hijinks over the years, it’s understandable that his creator would prefer to have input on what and how the character is used, as is his right.
In the suit, Baron Cohen’s attorneys are quite adamant about his objection to the infringement and the advertisement itself, insisting that Baron Cohen has never taken any endorsement deal despite many offers and voicing the actor’s disapproval of the use of marijuana products on principle as part of his Orthodox Jewish heritage. The actor is seeking no small amount of money from Solar Therapeutics in the forms of damages and profits resulting from the billboard.
It’s a whole heap of trouble for a company that I’m guessing can’t afford, given that the company immediately took the step of taking down the sign. Which suggests that they knew they were in the wrong to begin with, and went ahead and did it anyway, and for what? It’s hard to imagine that someone on the fence about pot would be swayed by a Borat ad, and by looking to stand out or be clever in some way, they’ve put their business in no small amount of financial peril. Of all the endorsements they could’ve sought, this will likely prove to be the most costly.