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Brand Management

I've written previously about cease and desist letters (also known as letters before action) regarding Taylor Swift and Netflix: as evidenced in these two instances, the standard legal documents can be ridiculous, cheeky, or even rather funny. But Budweiser recently took things to a whole new level when it used a medieval town crier to deliver a cease and desist handwritten scroll to Modist, a Minnesota brewery.
American beer company Budweiser launched Game of Thrones-like commercials set in the middle ages, with lords and ladies in authentic(ish) costumes repeating the nonsensical phrase “Dilly Dilly!” In one commercial, banquet invitees approach the king and queen to offer gifts. One man presents a six-pack of Bud Light to the king, who then exclaims, “Sir Jeremy, you are a true friend of the crown. Dilly Dilly!” The members of the royal court then all raise their Bud Lights in response, shouting “Dilly Dilly!” in approval. When the next guest presents a spiced honey mead wine instead of a Bud Light, the king tosses him into the pit of misery.

As the year draws to a close, most of us will think back on the people and events that shaped 2017. Considered by many to have been one of the biggest stories of the year, it would be difficult to ignore the social (and legal) discourse surrounding the more than forty high-profile men caught in sexual misconduct scandals. Last month, Netflix removed Kevin Spacey from its hit show House of Cards after Spacey was accused of sexual misconduct. However, Spacey claims Netflix cannot legally fire him because his contract did not contain a morality clause. Similarly, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s employment agreement may have only a very “loose” morals clause that does not allow for his termination, so long as he pays contractual fines and any costs incurred by his company due to his behavior.

A morality clause is a contractual provision that gives a party (usually a company) the unilateral right to terminate the agreement, or take punitive action against the other party (the "talent," which is usually an individual whose endorsement or image is sought) in the event that such other party engages in reprehensible behavior or conduct that may negatively impact his or her public image and, by association, the public image of the contracting company (source).

Famous movie stars and athletes earn big bucks beyond their day job at the studio or stadium. Their image can be used to in a variety of commercial contexts, ranging from endorsements and sponsorships, to merchandising and deals with fashion brands and magazines. Marketwatch reports that on average, signing a celebrity correlates to a rise in share prices, and a 4% increase in sales. After Chanel signed Nicole Kidman in 2003 to promote their N°5 perfume, global sales of the fragrance increased by 30%. Celebrities today spend a huge amount of time and energy developing and maintaining their public image. But here in the United Kingdom, "image rights" have never been clearly stated in law. So how do celebrities protect and control the publicity associated with their name, image, and brand?