The Need to Be Flexible When Working with Celebrities

Pantoliano, Joe Pa

As anybody who works in the sports-event industry knows, there are many time the old adage, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” comes into play.  But how much better is it to take the same situation and apply the old familiar saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” instead?

Whether in marketing, event management or the world of celebrity representation, being prepared and on top of things also means being flexible, adaptable and creative when new and better opportunities present themselves.  And this includes the times when you’re combing all three-  such as the marketing of your sports event by incorporating a celebrity appearance.  Here are some key points for event organizers looking to incorporate a celebrity into their event, tour or program:

Try to match the celebrity’s interest to help fit your agenda

In a unique opportunity several months ago, actor Joe “Joey Pants” Pantoliano (The Sopranos, The Fugitive, Midnight Run) was interested in participating in one of our goodwill military programs that we have trademarked Ambassadors of Hollywood Tours.  Under the proposal Pantoliano would be joined by other actors to visit the troops in Afghanistan, participating in autograph/photographs sessions, hospital visits and bas tours.

Pantoliano has also communicated to our office his desire to deliver his message about combating and dealing with mental illness and depression from which he has suffered over the last several years.  He felt there was a strong need to share his personal travails with military personnel, revealing and disclosing his story in the hope of hiving them come forward when they require help.

While we were excited to work with him, the entertainment themed tour did not seem the appropriate platform for him to share his important message.  Unfortunately, Pantoliano was unable to participate in the Ambassadors of Hollywood Tour due to his production schedule.  Ironically, though, what we thought at the time was the end of what could have been a fruitful, humanitarian and long-term relationship took a completely different turn.

In our workplace, we continue to be intrigued with the message the Pantoliano was emphatic about sharing.  Our challenge then was how could we make it work?

Keep special ideas on the back burner and always consider: “Who wants it? Who needs it”?

After much internal discussion and research, our agency determined that the military servicemen and women overseas did have a strong need for Pantoliano’s insight, recommendations and information.  The occurrences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and other mental diseases are well-documented in the military community and we felt strongly that Pantoliano could play a role in helping our deployed and returning soldiers.  Having coordinated more than 150 tours to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, we decided to present this concept to the military and possibly tie it into National Suicide Prevention week in early September.

Our concept was that we would build the “product”, hoping in turn someone would want it.  After receiving preliminary interest from our military contacts, we presented them with the concept that we would secure the participation of Pantoliano as well as a model/actress who also was passionate about the cause, and a medical expert in the field of mental illness.  We conceived that this trio would host seminars to present Pantoliano’s message to the military as well as screening of his new film, “No Kidding, Me Too!”  We also knew we needed to assemble press and marketing tools that would go along with the tour- items such as an educational brochure, an autograph card, question cards, media kits and the like.

Build your product with a diverse group of participants and secure commitment from the client

After present the Stomp the Stigma Tour concept to the military, the captivated by it and quickly gave their blessing to support the endeavor.  This type of “visit” to our troops had never been done before and everyone agreed that there was a need for the program.  Pantoliano remained passionate about helping us organize and coordinate the tour, as well as personally participating in it.  He recruited model/actress Lisa Jay to join the excursion; we added the renowned psychiatrist Dr. Robert Irvine, to guarantee we would have a diverse group of individuals to whom all facets of the military could relate in one way or the other.

The “Stomp the Stigma Tour” visited Iraq and Kuwait from August 31 to September 9, 2009 and was a huge success.  Other “expeditions” are sure to follow.

The lesson learned here is that if you have a valuable “product” but also a situation where the “nut doesn’t quite fit in the bolt”, be open to new ideas and concepts that can utilize and sell that particular idea.  In this case, we were fortunate and successful with Joe Pantoliano’s initial interest in making a difference and kept the idea alive.  While he did not participate in our original tour, with flexibility, creativity and perseverance we were able to develop a program specifically for him and a product that we felt would work well of the military.  This same type of flexibility can helps sports-event organizers hoping to use a celebrity to help market their own events.