- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Abercrombie & Fitch is trying to untangle itself from a sticky “Situation.”

In a move that has marketing experts scratching their heads, A&F, the upscale youth-oriented clothing store, is offering to pay stars from the top-rated “Jersey Shore” reality TV show to stop wearing the company’s apparel because they don’t want to tarnish their image.

After Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino was taped wearing a pair of neon green A&F sweatpants on a recent episode, the clothing store showed its displeasure - strangely enough - by opening its checkbook.

“We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image,” the company said. “We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans.”

A&F said they offered a substantial [and undisclosed] payment to “The Situation” and the producers of MTV’s “The Jersey Shore” to have him wear an alternate brand. They also have extended this offer to other members of the cast.

No word yet if there are any takers.

A&F isn’t the first company having to confront what ad specialists call the “rogue endorser.”

While some companies face heat for asking controversial celebrities to endorse their products, a number of companies are taking shots to their image from celebrities who were not recruited to promote their products but do it anyway.

In 2008, troubled Britney Spears gave Cheetos an unwanted sign of approval. She was photographed for an issue of OK magazine, holding an open bag of the cheesy snack.

It contradicted everything Cheetos was trying to do with their rebranding efforts at the time.

Disneyland and the Olive Garden also have dealt with a couple harmful endorsements from Playboy models that went against their reputations for strong family values.

Playboy’s Holly Madison listed Disneyland as one of her “turn-ons,” and has said she wants to “visit every Walt Disney theme park in the world.” Kendra Wilkinson has said she loves Olive Garden, a popular Italian restaurant chain. That led to a photo shoot that the chain would rather have avoided.

In the 1990s, Timberland’s boots warped into an essential piece of hip-hop attire among inner-city youth. The company tended to ignore this sector. While they didn’t start to target them for sales, they didn’t try to push them away, either. Sales were sales, after all.

Later, in 2006, the hip-hop industry caused problems for Cristal Champagne, when the company’s managing director hinted that he didn’t appreciate references to his product in rap lyrics. That led rapper Jay-Z to lead an embarrassing boycott of the company.

Burberry, an English brand, wanted nothing to do with a certain group of young people in Britain. In the 1990s, it became associated with “chavs,” a group known for rowdiness and hooliganism, after they adopted the product. The company then discontinued a certain product that was being misused.

As for Abercrombie & Fitch, it’s too soon to tell what long-term effects this non-endorsement offer will have on the company. A&F reported Wednesday that second-quarter net income rose 64 percent to $32 million. However, on the same day - which was first trading session after the “Jersey Shore” offer -the stock finished about 8 percent lower.

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