Is Denial the Best Defense Against Brand Damage?

Yesterday Serena Williams was fined $190K for her outburst at the line judge during last September’s US Open.

This is compared to $320K she won for making it to the Semi Finals.

The financial damage seems relatively contained.

But I wonder about the longer term damage to her brand.
As far as I know, no sponsors have pulled out.

But it will be interesting to see whether the crowd is with her or against her at January’s Australian Open.

If there is a cooling off, it may impact future sponsorships.

They are two very different situations, but nevertheless the news in the same week of Serena’s fine and Tiger Wood’s late night car accident, made me see some similarities between the two incidents.

Namely….denial.


While Serena eventually apologized to the line judge and the public, her first reaction in the post game news conference was to deny that she had any regrets or would have done anything differently.

Tiger is practicing another sort of denial.

Rightly or wrongly, he is refusing to see this as a matter for public comment. He keeps insisting that it a strictly private affair.

Granted Serena’s incident was public. In the middle of a champion tennis match on live TV in front of millions of people.

Tiger’s happened at night near his private residence. And if not for the photo of the totaled car, many people would not have a public image to experience the incident.

However, both are very public figures. Leveraging their personas not just in their jobs as athletes but in numerous product endorsements.

Is denial the newest brand management strategy?
Is it an effective one?

Does it fuel the fire or does it help contain things until the next celebrity blooper takes center stage and someone else is on the hook?

As I was writing this on Tuesday, Richard Gere was in the news for cutting down too many trees (200) on his NY Farm without local permission. Granted not as dramatic, but it started to get some air time.

After all Serena shared the gossip columns with Kanye during their nearly simultaneous week of bad behavior.

They in turn got some relief when David Letterman’s foibles became water cooler fodder.

Has are the public’s memory gotten shorter?

Or are we recognizing celebrities as human and forgiving them more quickly?

I think time will tell if Tiger and Serena’s brands will have any long term damage.

In the case of Tiger a lot will depend on whether the rumors or multiple infidelities are proven to be true.

But it does seem like celebrities and their handlers could start making a case for keeping quiet, riding things out and hoping that some other celebrity is about to do something a lot worse to divert the public’s attention.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?
Is denial an effective way to manage your personal brand?

3 thoughts on “Is Denial the Best Defense Against Brand Damage?

  1. Good piece.

    I like it when kinks become part of the”brand” or as I’d rather put it, “people’s personalities.”

    I’m an old geezer and fondly remember John McEnroe.

    His temper became his schtick and “you can’t be series” was a favoured line in my school yard when any teacher or dinner nanny told you off for some minor infraction 🙂

  2. Good piece.

    I like it when kinks become part of the”brand” or as I’d rather put it, “people’s personalities.”

    I’m an old geezer and fondly remember John McEnroe.

    His temper became his schtick and “you can’t be series” was a favoured line in my school yard when any teacher or dinner nanny told you off for some minor infraction 🙂

  3. I keep wondering if people secretly WANT there to be a scandal behind Tiger Woods’ accident. If it was in fact just an accident, how boring would that be for us, the public. On the otherhand if it was associated with marital problems, domestic violence or any number of the other scenarios that media is carelessly reporting, what a saucy story to consider — the superhuman Tiger Woods has problems and flaws just like the rest of us.

    This case is really reflecting the more shameful side of media and public fascination with celebrity gossip.

    As the lead character in the blockbuster, “Gladiator,” exclaimed — “Are you not entertained?!”

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