How can someone else’s crisis become yours? Ask Accenture.

December 18, 2009

One intriguing aspect of today’s crisis management is that when something bad happens to someone else, it normally causes some very big ripples. For example, after Virginia Tech the problem of notifying students of a shooter on campus became a nightmare for every university president in the country. A great many had to stand up in front of local TV cameras and answer the question: How will you let your students know if there is a shooter on campus? Most didn’t have good answers. They do now.

In dealing with a food industry client recently, we became aware of a local TV news story that impacted a similar grower in another part of the country. But all it takes is for a story like that to go viral or get national coverage and all the local outlets plus bloggers will be asking the question–could the same thing be happening next door?

Tiger’s crisis would appear to be Tiger’s crisis. But it is a different kind of crisis for Accenture. And as this NYT story shows, a very, very expensive one at that. My quick blog post from an airport in California showing an Accenture poster showed why. Let’s consider the implications of this for a bit. Here are my predictions:

– major companies will be far more reluctant to tie their marketing to a superstar in the way that Accenture has. Tiger looked as safe a bet as you can possibly imagine, but look at him. It is too risky to tie your brand to a brand that you don’t control and that you may think you know, but you really don’t. The implications for this for endorsement deals and major corporate sponsorships is immense. The “Tiger Effect” will cost lots of celebrities millions and millions of dollars (sorry, something I can quite tear up over).

– All companies with major celebrity sponsorships are in an evaluation stage. Everyone tying their brand to another is a little nervous. Funny that Larry King had Donald Trump and Dennis Rodman on talking about the impact of Tiger’s fall on sponsors. Very ironic really. I haven’t seen a ton of companies throwing millions at Rodman lately, or even the Donald. With Rodman repeating over and over that he’ll be fine as well as trying to enforce his own celebrity status, the message kind of backfired in my mind.

– Crisis managers will be taking a look at this as another example of crisis vulnerability. The truth is there is a lot of collateral damage when you have an implosion of the size and scope of Tiger’s. A lot of people get hurt besides his family. It’s an important lesson for executives and crisis managers.

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