Lessons Learned: It was late last year and Mike Watson, a VP for Durham-based LED lighting company Cree Inc. was talking up the brand’s agreement with a celebrity athlete who “represents who we are so well.” This athlete had “brute intellect,” Watson told us, “part Stephen Hawking, part Mike Ditka…that’s [Cree].” The athlete had revolutionized a sport, Watson said, and is “unafraid” to be different. Similarly Cree feels its approach to lighting is innovative and the brand is unafraid to be different.
As the specter of Jared Fogle and Subway was more top of mind at the time than it is now, we asked if there was any reluctance to engage a celebrity spokesperson. Brands were rethinking the wisdom of celebrity endorsers in Jared’s wake; they’re too risky was the argument. Watson’s response was memorable: “You can’t predict the future…You have to live with risk. I don’t think celebrity spokespeople are any more or less risky than anything else we do.” He added that Cree’s responsive social media team was a benefit. “We listen and respond…usually within a few hours…If you’re paying attention to what you do, you can mitigate risk better than people who don’t.”
The celebrity athlete in question is retired soccer great Abby Wambach, who was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of intoxicants two Sundays ago near her Portland, Ore.
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