Louis Vuitton has severed ties with Kris Wu, a Chinese Canadian singer and actor who was allegedly outed as a sexual abuser on Weibo. Wu, who was under contract as a brand ambassador to the French luxury house since 2018, has been plagued with predatory behaviour which culminated in a police investigation that became public.
Brands including Porsche and Bulgari have removed their endorsements, while Kiehl’s and Lancôme removed any Wu-related news and images from its social feeds.
The Weibo post corroborates the allegations made by several girls, stating Wu’s team would invite them to his home on the pretext of an interview. The allegations were denied by Wu’s team but did not stop Louis Vuitton and other brands from distancing themselves from the troubled celebrity.
When ambassador partnerships go bad
Brands and advertisers who contract celebrities are keen to share the ‘highs’ but rarely stick around during the ‘lows.’ When a scandal breaks out the brand will need to assess protocols, legal issues and social listening to see whether it is possible to ride out the storm or if the association could damage brand equity.
Robert Campbell, founder of advertising agency Beta, told Campaign: “If a scandal occurs involving a celebrity, the sponsoring brand needs to roll with the punches. Sometimes a situation can be turned to an advantage. I would have loved Virgin Atlantic to have signed up Naomi Campbell after she got banned from flying with British Airways.”
Brands rely on reputation and popularity as part of their success and standing. Ambassadors can resonate their message if they are authentic and credible advocates. Being accused of sexual misconduct is difficult to reconcile for any brand.