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Endorsements Change Hands When Celebs Get in Trouble, Moreso Than When They Die

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Brett Favre and Jennifer Sterger. (Reuters/Maxim)

The agents and managers that broker celebrity deals are all atwitter over the news that Brett Favre’s multi-million endorsement deals could soon be up for grabs.

"The second something like a Mel Gibson or Tiger Woods or now Brett Favre happens and the sharks know someone is going to be cut loose, the phones start ringing off the hook," one brand media planner told FOX411.com.

Depending on its ultimate conclusion, the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback's texting scandal could cost Favre of upwards of $7 million in endorsements with brands like Wrangler, Snapper lawn mowers, Nike and MasterCard. 

Wrangler jeans has already pulled back on their ads featuring Favre, opening the playing field for a new 40-something spokesman to be the All-American blue jean daddy.

So why exactly does one celebrity’s agent care about someone else’s scandal?

Simple math. 

When one person is hurt by a scandal, the laws of celebrity economics dictate that someone else will benefit. Those endorsement dollars have to go somewhere. A scandal often forces a product to quickly cut ties with a brand, leaving a pile of endorsement dollars waiting to be spent.

“It’s the lawyers, the managers and the agents who start to swarm a brand. There is a trifecta of reasons. First they want to prove to their client that they are working for them, second if it works they get moola, and third they want the publicity it generates when their client ends up on the short list for the endorsement,” says Matt Rich, founder of Planet PR, a public relations company that deals with celebrity endorsements and underwriting.

Media and branding consultant Michael Sands remembers putting together a celebrity endorsement package for a high profile weight loss company after their main celebrity spokesperson was arrested for domestic violence. 

“Agents started calling us and asking whether our spokesperson had a moral turpitude clause and offering me their clients who they promised were squeaky clean and would never get in that kind of trouble,” Sands said. “When scandal strikes, someone else is always willing to step in.”

A scandal, much more than a celebrity death, gets agents in a tizzy because it means someone will be instantly sacked. Even in death, a celebrity can continue to promote a product or brand. Today’s technology allows  celebrity spokespeople to do much what they did in life well after rigor mortis sets in.

“Dead celebrities can do pretty much everything that they did when they were alive, with the technology we have today, except make a personal appearance,” explains Matt Delzell, a marketing account director with Davie Brown Talent, who specializes in pairing brands with celebrity spokespeople. “In the advertising world these people are still very much alive. Brands are interested in dead celebrities because there is a more iconic feeling after someone passes away.”

Dead celebrities are such big business they even have their own term in the advertising world: they're called "delebs."

Famous pitchman Billy Mays continued to sell from beyond the grave after he died last year. Before his death, Mays recorded commercials for two new products, Mighty Tape and the Mighty Putty Super Pack. Media Enterprises, the marketing company that represented the brands, opted to release them after he died. 

The heirs of Fred Astaire were able to re-launch his career selling electric brooms during a Super Bowl halftime ad, and Elvis was recently able to sing a duet with Celine Dion on "American Idol."

But it’s much harder to continue business as usual with a star who has been caught with his pants around his ankles, literally or figuratively.

And so as scandals continue to haunt big endorsers like Favre, Tiger Woods, and even Lindsay Lohan, the dance of wining and dining brand managers behind the scenes has already begun. Lunches are being scheduled, flowers sent and favors curried.

These meetings are typically held in secret as major brands like to present a façade of a mourning period when breaking up with a celebrity endorser.

“That mourning period is getting shorter and shorter exponentially each year,” Rich explains. “America’s appetite is for what is new and happening now, and they are less worried about yesterday’s scandal.”

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