It’s your classic romantic plotline. Brand meets boy (Abercrombie and Fitch meet Jersey Shore’s Michael Sorrentino, a.k.a “The Situation”), brand loves boy (A&F market t-shirts bearing the slogan “The Fitchuation”), brand leaves boy (A&F publicly requests The Situation stop wearing the brand and makes an offer of an undisclosed sum to him.)
We’ve commented before on what happens when love between brands and celebrities goes sour but this is a completely new type of co-branding situation (that pun intended). The union between “The Situation” and A&F was never even legal: Sorrentino isn’t, and never has been, a paid spokesperson for the brand. A&F was just doing what clothing retailers do these days: re-appropriating and re-purposing pop-culture phenomena.
Is this just a publicity stunt? A&F has explained, “We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image. We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans.” Then they made the same generous offer to the entire cast: take our money just don’t wear our clothing, please. Thus inventing a new celebrity income stream. Getting paid for not doing something!
To be fair, it’s hard to reconcile A&F’s website that looks so WASPY, reeking of American, collegiate affluence with the Jersey Shore cast’s down-scale sleazy and drunken behavior, although in an interview given by Sorrentino to the New York Post last year, he said A&F told him “The Fitchuation” had become their best-selling t-shirt. Maybe these irreconcilable differences are just A&F juicing “The Situation’s” name one last time on their way to a new brand positioning.
Either way, there’s a lesson to be learned here. When we look closely at this broken love story, we realize that it was never really about love. True love between a brand and a celebrity involves synergies. Having something in common on a deep level, like Intel and, well, any technology brand.
As we’ve said, the marriage between brand and celebrity should be a love based on compatibility. An enduring partnership can be based on nothing less. PR, on the other hand, …