Nearly 100 years ago the American actor, comedian and social commentator Will Rogers wrote, “It takes a lifetime to build a reputation but minutes to destroy one.” I’ve been considering that in the context of Jeremy Clarkson’s recent notoriety and the impact it has on the commercial sponsorships with which he’s associated, writes David Little, a partner in our Corporate and Commercial Law team.
The always fascinating Find Out Now poll recently posed this question, “Jeremy Clarkson wrote of Meghan Markle in The Sun newspaper that he was “dreaming of the day when she is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while crowds chant, ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her”, claiming “everyone who’s my age thinks the same way.” He has since apologised.
“To what extent do you agree that he should lose his lucrative TV deal with Amazon?”
Simon English, the Evening Standard’s Financial Editor points out that Clarkson is of course highly remunerated by several large organisations, Amazon and News Corporation, to name two.
Is his personal brand tarnished to the extent they should drop their association with him? He wrote, “It is tempting to see the Clarkson dispute as a battle for the UK’s soul. Who do we like best? The wokes, or the blokes?”
As Unherd points out, Clarkson has always been a guilty treat. Nicholas Harris writes: “For the length of a Sunday column or an episode of Top Gear, we could wallow harmlessly in the swamp of arrogant prejudice and self-gratification which sits at the bottom of the brain.”
The evidence of the Find Out Now poll suggests he may really have gone too far this time. If we assume his core audience is Tory blokes over 40, then quite large numbers of his fans have turned on him.
The poll shows the middle aged are most forgiving of him. Only 30% of men and 25% of Conservative voters think Amazon should drop him.
You can see the full results here: To what extent do you agree that Jeremy Clarkson should lose his lucrative TV deal with Amazon?
For Commercial lawyers publicity is something our clients often flee from. The world of celebrity endorsement can be very tricky indeed. Social media is littered with examples of celebrities’ falls from grace. Yet still we seek to share the limelight with those in the public gaze.
Perhaps this divides between age ranges?
You’ll be surprised to hear I don’t have much of a fan base on Instagram or TikTok but does this mean we’ve reached a generational impasse? Are the boundaries clearly defined in 2023 between blokes v wokes?
How does the business world respond?
In the first instance, it doesn’t panic. Secondly, it needs to learn and be more sensitive to the motivations of audiences that may be culturally different from them. And thirdly a look back to history shows us that we’ve been here before, many times.
The word ‘teenager’ only came into being after the end of the second World War when weary 40 and 50 year olds looked down their noses jealously at these new Baby Boomers who had such boundless energy. Elvis came along, and the rest is history…
Another vintage Will Rogers quote seems an appropriate observation of where we really are today, “Things will get better — despite our efforts to improve them.”
David Little is a Partner at Bishop & Sewell in our expert Corporate & Commercial team. If you would like to contact him, please quote Ref CB376 on either 020 7631 4141 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The above is accurate as at 20 January 2023. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times. The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.