The way things usually work when marketing and advertising cross paths with the TV and film industries, is that the former pays the latter for what’s known as product placement — i.e. the advertiser or ad agency pays the TV producer or actor to use/wear/eat a their product during the ordinary course of the program. This is becoming an increasingly effective means of advertising in the era of the DVR (when many people fast forward through the commercials).
Here’s a situa … uhhhm, I mean a circumstance where the opposite is true: Instead of paying the actor or show to showcase their product, the teeny, fratty clothing purveyor Abercrombie & Fitch has offered Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino a substantial amount of money to refrain from wearing A&F gear.
For nearly two decades, A&F has made billions by exploiting teenaged and young twenty-somethings’ six-pack abs, which also happens to be Sorrentino’s self-proclaimed calling card. (He actually tried to get trademark protection for his abs, but fortunately the USPTO thought better or it.)
I disagree with those who are quick to call this a mere publicity stunt for A&F. This was a strategic decision by Mike Jeffries (A&F’s CEO) to dissociate from the raunchy, douchebag image perpetuated by Sorrentino and the reality show. It’s just Jeffries’ eccentric way of policing the Abercrombie brand.
Policing your brand goes hand-in-hand with trademark protection, because those who fail to police their brand/mark end up losing it altogether. Most of us are too young to remember that aspirin was once a brand-name drug.
Sorrentino’s people haven’t said whether they’re considering A&F’s offer, but regardless of whether he takes the deal, doesn’t this set a dangerous precedent for the future? Is Glock going to pay Plaxico Burress to switch to Smith & Wesson? Are the Yankees gonna pay wannabe-thug rappers to don Red Sox lids instead? Instead of paying Sorrentino not to wear A&F clothes, why not send him a cease and desist letter, on the basis that he is disparaging their brand? Even if Abercrombie were to lose that fight in court, it would send a strong message that they do not condone or endorse the lifestyle portrayed by Sorrentino and his goombahs.