Shaun White Celebrity Endorsement(Photograph by Martin Schoeller)

When it comes to brand endorsements, celebrity endorsements can be one of the most complex. Not only can it be hard for the brand to overcome what Rohit Bhargava calls the “paid to play” perception, but there is always a risk that a celebrities actions might stray from the light the brand wants to be represented in.

My biggest concern with celebrity endorsements is how diluted they can become as the celebrity endorses more and more brands. After all the celebrities that are hot and in demand are the ones that tend to do the most endorsements. So while an endorsement of RedBull today might generate immediate attention and mass appeal, when that same celebrity goes on to sign that underwear deal with Hanes, RedBull just won’t seem as edgy (at least in association with that celeb).

Fast Company recently did a feature story on extreme sport superstar, Shaun White. One might think with White’s massive fan appeal, especially among Gen Y age groups, that he would be a celebrity endorsement stretched to his limit. But, this is clearly not the case.

White maintains successful endorsement deals with Burton, Target, Red Bull, Oakley, HP and Ubisoft. This is obviously more brand attachments than most celebrities are able to manage. So what makes Shaun White different?

After reading the story, here are a few standouts for why Shaun White continuously defies the natural law of brand endorsements:

Understands the value of his personal brand.

Shaun understands that in the same way his endorsement reflects on a brand, his personal brand is reflected upon by a brand he chooses to endorse. He always weighs not only the short-term gains for a deal, but how this will affect his personal brand value in the long-term.

White remains authentic.

Despite Shaun’s continuous escalation to stardom, he stays true to who he is and what he stands for and his fans love him for it.

Only works with brands he can connect with.

Shaun only works with brands that he personally connects with. In fact, there have been multiple occasions where White sought out a relationship with a brand he wanted to work with, instead of signing a contract with anyone that writes him a check.

Understands how endorsements work together.

This was clearly exhibited back when White had to decide between continuing his relationship with Volcom or enter into a brand new deal with Target, where he would have a hand in designing a special line of clothing. He opted to work with Target because of the freedom the opportunity provided him and because it would eliminate any possible conflicts between Burton and Volcom.

(See Shaun White in Action)


I think Shaun pretty much summed up his success with brand endorsements when he said,

I don’t know what my image is. But I know what it’s not.