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Risk factor: Rossmann no longer sells Rammstein frontman Till Lindemann products online

Photo: Christoph Soeder / picture alliance/dpa

Drinking a coffee like George Clooney, looking like Kylie Jenner with cosmetics or exuding the same scent as Brad Pitt: celebrities are omnipresent in marketing. Every day, they hold products in front of the camera on advertising posters, websites and social platforms, boosting the sales figures of companies.

But as brilliant as the business with the stars can be, it is also risky for companies. Because in order to attract attention in the midst of the almost endless offers, the cry for attention and the crossing of boundaries has become the business model of many artists - including Rammstein frontman Till Lindemann.

Again and again, Lindemann attracts attention with provocation, be it through Nazi symbolism, self-staging in concentration camp uniform or through music videos glorifying violence. The song "I hate children", released in 2021 for World Children's Day, attracted not only outrage but above all else: attention. More than two million people watched the music video on YouTube. The accompanying short film shows Lindemann in a role that evokes memories of the Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo – and this shows a business model with which Lindemann has been successful for 30 years: Through the scandal, he achieves reach that makes him interesting for companies.

Rossmann vs. Lindemann

But the allegations that are currently being made against Lindemann are of a different nature. They are no longer about how much violence is allowed in art. They revolve around a perfidious system of the real world, in which one's own power and the protection of women are abused: Several young women were apparently recruited specifically for sex with the Rammstein singer, as "NDR" and "Süddeutsche Zeitung" report. Two women also reported alleged sexual acts to which they had not consented. Others report being specifically drugged for this purpose.

The accusations are so serious that even companies that would otherwise adorn themselves with the band's name are pulling the ripcord. The drugstore chain Rossmann, for example, has stopped selling the band's perfume online. There, fragrances with the names "pussy", "sex" or "cocaine" could be purchased at a price of around 30 euros for 100 milliliters. The fragrances are also no longer available on the website of the Müller drugstore chain. Whether Rossmann will also remove the products from the shelves in its stores was not yet available from the drugstore chain until Wednesday afternoon.

The retail chains are thus distancing themselves from one of the most lucrative bands in Germany. With 20 million records sold, Rammstein is Germany's most successful music export. Through record sales, tours and fan articles, Rammstein has earned an estimated 500 million euros since the mid-nineties. Since 2001, all fan merchandise has been distributed by the trading company "Rammstein Merchandising". Lindemann's private fortune is estimated at 20 million euros.

But the allegations of abuse weigh heavily, and more and more women are making accusations against Lindemann. Rammstein denies the accusations and continues to tour Germany. Starting next week, the band will play four sold-out concerts in Munich, a total of 240,000 people want to see Rammstein there. The band has since parted ways with their "casting director" Alena Makeeva and asks not to be prejudged.

Last week, the publishing house Kiepenheuer & Witsch had already ended its cooperation with the 60-year-old Rammstein frontman. His book "In Silent Nights" was published there in 2013. The reason for the separation was a video "in which Till Lindemann celebrates sexual violence against women". But the video was already published in 2020, the year in which Lindemann's controversial "100 Poems" volume was published by the publisher. The poem "When You Sleep" deals with rape fantasies and is currently being heavily discussed on the Internet. It is only three years after the release of the video that the publisher is now separating.

According to media reports, the band is said to have turned on a law firm themselves because of the allegations of abuse against Lindemann. The aim is to clarify the situation. It is also about the alleged use of drugs without the knowledge of those involved. It remains to be seen what consequences the abuse allegations against Lindemann will have and whether the band will be able to complete their current tour. But the Lindemann scandal is not the only case in which a prominent advertising figure forces a company to change course. manager magazin shows prominent examples - without claiming to be exhaustive.

Adidas vs. Kanye West

In October 2022, sporting goods giant Adidas ended its collaboration with rapper Kanye West. Again and again, the artist attracted attention with crude public statements. After all, anti-Semitic remarks made West intolerable last year. The end cost Adidas 600 million euros in sales in the fourth quarter alone, and in the new year it will lose 1.2 billion euros in sales and half a billion euros in operating profit. In addition, there is the stock of "Yeezy" shoes, the sale of which was stopped at the end of October. There was a threat of write-downs of 500 million euros. The rapper owns the trademark rights, Adidas the rights to the product. The possible solution to the problem: The shoes are to be sold via the Adidas app and the proceeds donated.

Giving a brand a prominent face is lucrative. A study by Harvard Business School puts the average increase in sales through the use of prominent athletes as advertising ambassadors at 4 percent. Another study shows that the market valuation of companies increases by an average of 0.5 percent the day after the announcement of an advertising contract with a celebrity. This has also been evident at Adidas in recent years: In good times, the company had achieved sales of well over one billion euros with the shoe brand "Yeezy" in cooperation with West.

Kellog vs. Michael Phelps

The food brand Kellog had also hoped for an increase in profits from a prominent athlete. The eight-time Olympic champion from Beijing adorned the package of breakfast cereals for a long time. However, after the U.S. Swimming Federation banned the athlete for three months for marijuana use in 2009 and cut off his financial support, Kellogs did not extend the expiring advertising deal with the athlete. The picture of Phelps, which shows him inhaling with a glass pipe, was taken at a party on the grounds of the University of South Carolina. "Michael's recent behavior is not in line with Kellogg's image," company spokeswoman Susanne Norwitz said at the time. Phelps thus disappeared from the shelves.

Burberry vs. Kate Moss

Drugs were also the reason why the fashion house Burberry distanced itself from supermodel Kate Moss in 2005 after the newspaper "Daily Mirror" published photos of her using cocaine. As a result, the company did not want to show the model in its advertising campaign as originally planned. Posters that had already been printed had to be removed. Half a year after the inglorious separation, the model was back in the campaigns.

Moss also lost million-dollar contracts with Chanel, H&M and Gloria Vanderbilt because of the incident. After an apology and drug treatment in Arizona, however, she made a comeback: She appeared on numerous front pages and secured new advertising contracts with Calvin Klein, the mobile phone provider Virgin Mobile and the French handbag label Longchamp.

Disney vs. Johnny Depp

Actor Johnny Depp also made his comeback. After losing his iconic role as pirate Jack Sparrow in the 2018 "Pirates of the Caribbean" film series, film giant Disney is now said to have re-contacted the actor for a fresh start. In 2018, Depp had lost his signature role after his ex-wife Amber Heard said in an interview that Depp had beaten her.

In Germany, too, advertising campaigns with celebrities are stopped from time to time and their products are removed from the range. About a year ago, for example, musician and social media star Fynn Kliemann came under criticism for concealing the origin of mask deliveries during the Corona crisis. As a result, numerous partners terminated their cooperation – from beverage companies to DIY stores.

Aldi also recently had problems with a brand face. The discounter had advertised bread with influencer Jeremy Fragrance. But that's over after Fragrance made misogynistic remarks at the OMR marketing festival in Hamburg in May. Fragrance's statements are "in no way compatible with the values and attitudes of the Aldi Nord Group," the group said.

Other companies remain loyal to their celebrities until death and even after. Even after Michael Jackson's passing, the beverage manufacturer Pepsi continued to advertise with the King of Pop. Other companies had previously steered clear of the singer after he was accused of alleged child abuse.