Subsidizing funerals as a brand strategy?

Tombstone_2A couple days after the death of early basketball great George Mikan, a wire-service article reported that Shaquille O’Neal had kindly arranged to pay for Mikan’s funeral. (Like Shaq, Mikan had led a few Laker teams to the NBA title.) This reminded us of the obits earlier this year for boxer Max Schmeling which mentioned that he’d paid years earlier for the funeral of Joe Louis, with whom he split two famous bouts in the 1930s. This got us to wondering how often one celeb pays for the funeral of a fellow celeb who’s died without lots of money to his name. Through the magic of Googling, we came across a number of such cases. According to various reports, funeral-payers over the years have included Frank Sinatra (for the odd couple of Bela Lugosi and Judy Garland), Ed Sullivan (for legendary dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson), Sammy Davis Jr. and Bill Cosby (for Coasters singer Cornell Gunter) and Michael Jackson (for Temptations singer David Ruffin). The thought popped into AdFreak’s active mind that this might be a natural field for brand marketers. Wouldn’t you feel better disposed toward an athletic-gear company if you learned that it had quietly (but not too quietly!) paid for the funeral of some indigent one-time sports star? Or toward a music company that had funded the burial of a penniless singer? And wouldn’t it warm up the image of a big accounting firm if it paid the bill to send a defrocked CEO into the great hereafter? We just hope to live long enough to see it become a full-blown trend.

—Posted by Mark Dolliver

Image: Carly Tushingham