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Alicia Keys leaves Blackberry role

14 January 2014

Ailing phone manufacturer Blackberry has ended its business partnership with musician Alicia Keys after a year.

The R&B star was hired to much fanfare in January 2013, coinciding with the launch of the ultimately ill-fated Blackberry 10.

Given the title of ‘global creative director’, Keys worked on Blackberry’s Keep Moving programme, as well as a scholarship programme for women looking to study engineering, science, technology and mathematics.

However, her time with the company coincided with a massive drop in Blackberry’s fortunes, with its new smartphone flopping and an attempt to sell the company failing to attract any buyers.

Keys also caused controversy when a tweet coming from her account appeared to have been sent using an iPhone. She quickly claimed she had been hacked.

The crisis at Blackberry peaked in November, when CEO Thorsten Heins was fired and replaced with John Chen. Speculation has surrounded Keys’ role ever since, particularly when it emerged the company was having to lay off staff.

It is not clear whether Keys was asked to step down or chose to of her own accord. A company statement said it had ‘enjoyed the opportunity to work with such an incredibly talented and passionate individual’.

Celebrity partnerships under the microscope

While this particular celebrity business linkup failed, there is a growing trend for brands to recruit celebrity partners and give them a proper title within the company.

Examples from the past couple of years include:

  • Justin Timberlake and Budweiser
  • Beyonce and Pepsi
  • Will.i.am and Intel
  • Lady Gaga and Polaroid

Analysts of this growing phenomenon have concluded that it is important for the celebrity to have an active role within the company, rather than just being a ‘face’ or ‘bank account’.

Of course, as the Alicia Keys/Blackberry case shows, even if this is the case it is no guarantee of success. Sometimes it can just be a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The practical side of business partnership

For new start-ups, the heady world of celebrity endorsements is a long way off. At this stage, it is simply about getting the right partnership agreement in place to ensure your business gets off to a good start and that this can be sustained long term.

For further advice on entering a business partnership, speak to the team at Ralli Solicitors on 0161 832 6131.

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