To Sheen or to Tebow: The Celebrity PR Dilemma

Just when you thought the Charlie Sheen saga couldn’t get any stranger, Fiat and Direct TV enter the picture.  The newest commercials for the Fiat 500 Abarth and Direct TV showcase the actor who now is perhaps best known for having the mother of all public meltdowns, at least it appeared to be a meltdown.  Looking at it now it might just be the newest PR and media relations strategy for actually “winning” product endorsement deals.

Yes, the actor and warlock Charlie Sheen has emerged from the ashes in a big way. The ex Two and A half Men star has reemerged as a commercial hit.  Perhaps this marks traditional advertisings full embracement of celebrity train wrecks as marketing tools.  Reality TV has used that formula for years now.  In the formula, the most obnoxious one is the biggest celebrity. The train wreck is the one who lands all of the publicity.

It’s hard to deny that these ads are funny, but what’s interesting is to try and figure out what they say about us and our culture.  It’s as though Superman’s Bizarre world came to life in front of our very eyes.  Forget the celebrity with the wholesome or upstanding image, now advertisers will fall all over themselves in search of nasty, disagreeable, noxious.

The DirecTV spot, illustrates how a personal encounter with Sheen happens at the end of a downward slide into ruin which comes about as a result of having regular cable TV.  In the end Sheen and the protagonist are in military gear play-acting scenes from Platoon. In the Fiat commercial, Sheen hoops and hollers and spins in his Fiat Abarth around the inside of his mansion. Later, while Sheen, wearing a fitted suit and ankle bracelet, exits the car stands next to model Catrinel Menghia, and grinning up at a cheering crowd standing on the balcony above him, cries out: “I love being under house arrest!” Not that Sheen has ever actually been under house arrest, but by now most people probably think he has.  Is this the Resurrection of Sheen?  Was “winning” more a prediction than a boast?

When Fiat was questioned as to why they decided to go with Sheen (who many would have viewed as a commercial liability) Olivier Francois, who also serves as Chrysler’s chief marketing officer explained:  “The Fiat 500 Abarth is the bad boy of the Fiat vehicle lineup, and Charlie Sheen personifies the edgy and fun attributes of the Fiat 500 Abarth.”

Who can argue with that? Not that wholesomeness and apple pie are complexly off the radar.  Tim Tebow represents the counterpart to this Sheen PR strategy.

Tebow is the Heisman Trophy winning former quarterback of the University of Florida Gators. Tebow who lead the Denver Broncos into the playoffs.  Tebow is known for his trademark one knee prayer stance.  He was followed through his senior season by a film crew, which produced the “Chosen One”. A one-hour documentary that looked at Tebow’s football career, work ethic and family life.

Both celebrities are now household names and both have now become verbs.  When in doubt celebrities now have a choice, they can either Sheen or Tebow.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

Thompson, Rebecca. “Americans want to live next to Tim Tebow, not Nancy Grace, Charlie Sheen.” Photos. Landmark Report. 16 Mar 2012. <http://landmarkreport.com/rthompson/2012/01/americans-want-to-live-next-to-tim-tebow-not-nancy-grace-charlie-sheen&gt;

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