Fashion Law: Rapper Munachi Abii New Face of Lux Soap, #Brand Ambassador Agreements

In Fashion Law by FASHIONENTLAW™

I have a thing for Africa. I wonder why? Hmmm. . . let’s see, “Oh! I am African.” 🙂 On a more serious note, congratulations to Nigeria’s Munachi Abii who has just inked a sweet deal as the new brand ambassador for Lux soap. Abii will appear in Lux print, TV and billboard ads across the continent in a couple of weeks. Lux soap, for those who do not know, is an extremely popular brand both within Nigeria and across the continent, as popular as Oil of Olay or any other popular soap brands here in the USA. Abii joins a stellar cast of accomplished Lux beauty brand ambassadors like Actresses Aishwarya Rai, Catherine Zeta-Jones and the late Elizabeth Taylor. Great look, if you ask me.

Since we are talking Africa, there has been a recent trend within the continent’s fashion and entertainment industries for African celebrities to endorse products or services. Nevertheless, the brand ambassador route is still so new and foreign to many, especially the talents whose names are sought.

A few exhibits specific to Nigeria include:

Exhibit 1. Genevieve Nnaji, New Face of MUD Cosmetics and Luna Milk; AND
Exhibit 2. Supermodel Model Oluchi, Recare Cosmetics

On the legal side here in the West, we’ve seen brand ambassadors get sued for not fulling their terms of the agreement. An example was Paris Hilton and her hair extensions which I covered here. So, let’s get a few things straight if you have been approached to be a brand ambassador, a common trend in Africa’s exploding fashion and entertainment markets. Legal Commentary
1. Get a lawyer to review the contract terms. Speak with an entertainment lawyer, as it will be his/her job to look out for your interest.

2. Long term commitments are a no, no. If there is a time to be very cautious when it comes to relationships, this is it. Baby steps first. One year commitment might make sense. Five years? *Rolls eyes*

3. Understand your obligations. Brand ambassadors are expected and should promote the products or services they endorse. Expect to be involved in promotional activities for the life of the agreement you signed.

4. Watch out for joint venture/partnership language. This is where the hottest of litigation battles occur. If you are a celebrity, you don’t want a company claiming you were business partners when you signed a brand ambassador agreement. Similarly, if you are a business, and a successful one at that, you don’t want a celebrity claiming he/she was business partners with you. As in “Really?”

Newsflash, those of us in the industry know celebrity does not necessarily mean rich. In fact, there are many celebrities who struggle just like the average American to make ends meet. What “celebrity” really means is that the media finds the subject (the “celebrity”) interesting enough to keep them buzzing in the news. The media buzz in turn attracts companies and individuals who hopefully can help bring profitable financial opportunities for that celebrity. Accordingly, if you are the business approaching such “celebrity”, you want to make sure your celebrity is truly a brand ambassador, no more, no less.

5. Royalty Based Contracts: The flip side of #4 is that businesses and celebrities can sign a royalty based contract which gives an incentive for all parties to work hard for a nice chump of change. What are the numbers in royalty based contracts? It could range from 8-30%. Here, the celebrity wants that co-ownership interest i.e. joint venture etc., and has an added incentive to be involved in the product or service endorsed.

6. FACTOR IN BAD BEHAVIOR, GET A MORALS CLAUSE: Where do I start? How about I just get on to “winning” like Charlie Sheen? For companies looking to have a brand ambassador or spokesperson, you MUST factor bad behavior into the agreement. These days, it is not unusual to find celebrities behaving badly.

WHAT COMPANY WANTS: A broad morals clause that allows company to terminate agreement if celebrity behaves badly.

WHAT CELEBRITY WANTS: No morals clause. If there should be one, then a narrowly tailored language that gives room to wiggle out. For celebrities, you have to think, who defines “bad behavior?” There are clear examples defined by law i.e. breaking the criminal code i.e. robbery, murder, assault etc. But, what if you were in public and a reporter sticks a mic in your face asking about a hot topic and your opinion on the hot button topic? What if you respond, your response is appropriate but offends many that disagree with your position? What if you are asked to “apologize” and you refuse because it is truly what you believe? What if the company whose brand you represent now wants to pull the plug because under the morals clause, “it is offensive” to many, what do you do? Your lawyer should forsee such issues and should be able to focus on the language in your agreement to protect your interest.

Enough musings on this one.

Congrats to Abii. Now check out a few ads from the Nigerian market. They are mostly of Genevieve Nnaji as a brand ambassador. The MUD cosmetics hmmmmm . . . .I think they could spice it up and be a lot more creative. Not very strong in my book.

The Luna Milk is fun! Nnaji ought to smile more. It is definitely a good look on her.