How smart, really, is that big-name celebrity endorsement?

How much is that celebrity endorsement really worth to your brand or cause? A new list rates the credentials of 50 big-name stars.

Gotta love the cover of Newsweek magazine this week. Just a big photo of Tiger Woods (not a flattering shot, BTW), with this simple statement: "Why we can't look away."

Of course, my life has been replete with savage Tiger jokes and also general grousing among my civilian (aka non-journalist) friends about how horrible the media is for having a field day with this stuff. To which my response is, "stop watching." Watching means you endorse the coverage and therefore pay for that coverage. To which their response is usually silence. Guilty as charged.

In any event, the real question of the moment is what damage all these shenanigans have wrought on Tiger's earning power as celebrity mouthpiece. It tooks weeks for it to happen, but Accenture has dumped him. Gillette is waiting and seeing, and Nike is standing by their man. Good for them, by the way. I mean, just because Tiger's behavior is morally questionable (ahem) doesn't mean he still isn't a phenomenal athlete.

All this raises the bigger question of just why and how companies and other commercial ventures pick certain celebrities to represent their brands. I personally first noticed the shift toward celebrity endorsement maybe 15 years ago when the cosmetics companies started using famous actresses instead of merely exquisite models to be photographed wearing their products. The Oscar dress parade is another example of how designers "buy" a showing on the red carpet.

Of course, these endorsements are really all in the commercial realm and when something bad happens, it's relatively easy (usually) for someone to disassociate themselves. Although it may be expensive, what with all the rebranding required.

The question is which big-name celebrities really carry the most bang for a charitable cause or brand -- ones where they aren't really "paid" for their support or good will.

Ponder, for a moment, the credibility that actor Leonardo DiCaprio now brings to green causes. He actually became the poster-boy AFTER he started taking real meaningful action to change his lifestyle by flying commercial, going hybrid first with a Toyota Prius and then with a Tesla Roadster. As many among us scramble to make end-of-the-year charitable donations that might wind up as a tax deduction, The Daily Beast has actually worked up a ranking that rates various celebrities' charitable quotient. That is, if you allow said individual to be a mouthpiece for your organization, how much is their support REALLY worth in dollars and sense.

U2 lead singer Bono, for example, would be worth roughly $3.6 million to ONE Foundation, while ex-Beatle Paul McCartney has an annual impact more like $135,000. There are 50 big-name stars on the list, altogether.

By the way, according to The Daily Beast, DiCaprio's annual impact is only $241,000. Tiger doesn't even make the list.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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