YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The State

In Advertising, Governor Accepts No Imitations

Schwarzenegger and his attorneys are vigilant in guarding the use of his image.

March 30, 2004|Robert Salladay | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — When an Oregon brewery introduced the "Governator Ale" in January, the company proclaimed it would be "no girly-man beer." It promised to brew 3,200 cases for California drinkers under a Pumping Iron label.

Then the weight came down.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's lawyers demanded that the Portland Brewing Co. cease making beer that exploited the governor's image for profit. The company quickly complied and a settlement is in the works.

The short, unhappy life of "Governator Ale" is representative of dozens of business ventures that have attempted to profit from Schwarzenegger's image as a tough guy, bodybuilder and tax-cutting politician.

As an actor, Schwarzenegger was well-known in Hollywood for aggressively protecting his carefully crafted image through letters from his team of lawyers and, occasionally, lawsuits seeking monetary damages.

His attorney Martin D. Singer has built a reputation as a tenacious advocate for his high-profile Hollywood clients, who include Celine Dion and Eddie Murphy. Reporters covering celebrities have complained about receiving hostile letters from Singer while pursuing tips about his clients.

Schwarzenegger's election as governor and his newfound status as a public official have not curbed the zeal of his advisors to protect his image. If someone profits from or distorts his image, legal experts say, he can still sue for economic damages -- even as governor.

In the months since the recall, Schwarzenegger's hard-nosed lawyers say, they have been on alert for unauthorized ads and products.

They took issue with a Southern California car dealership, for example, that featured Schwarzenegger in an advertisement that thanked him for reducing the state's car registration fees. Likewise, they have taken action against a company that produced a greeting card featuring Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, without authorization.

"There is a new front in the war" now that Schwarzenegger is governor, said his business advisor, Paul Wachter. "Where it used to be Arnold in his movies, now sometimes it may be Arnold as Arnold, or even Arnold and Maria, who has her own rights to protect."

The state has an interest in protecting Schwarzenegger's image as well, said Rob Stutzman, Schwarzenegger's communications director. The governor "wants to use himself as a pitchman, which has a tremendous value to benefit California," because it allows him to control the political agenda advanced in his name.

Schwarzenegger is about to launch an advertising campaign promoting California as a good place to do business. He already has produced one TV ad, filmed at a state beach, that is scheduled to be aired this spring.

"You don't overexpose an asset like the governor," Stutzman said. "If it's not special anymore to see the governor promoting something, then you lose an advantage that we otherwise would have. That's just a fundamental principle of marketing."

It's not about money, Stutzman said. Schwarzenegger is focused on governing and promoting California, he said. The governor has no plans to do any commercial ads for products or to act in any more movies. (Last July, Schwarzenegger filmed a cameo appearance as Prince Hapi in a remake of "Around the World in 80 Days," set for release June 16.)

Schwarzenegger, who has rejected his $175,000-a-year salary as governor, has put his financial assets in a blind trust managed by Wachter.

Schwarzenegger surprised some of his aides last month by agreeing to edit and write a column for Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines, not publications in which statesmen's names often appear. At least some aides worried that the new job could taint his image and prompt comparisons with Jesse Ventura, who announced XFL football games while serving as governor of Minnesota.

Schwarzenegger has scrupulously tracked and crafted how people view him. After Schwarzenegger complained, he received an apology from the Globe tabloid newspaper for a story saying that his heart was a "ticking time bomb," and he forced a British tabloid to pay damages for claiming he admired Nazi views.

Garry South, the former political advisor to Gov. Gray Davis, said he had received an angry letter from Singer after he distributed a 2001 Premier magazine article that claimed Schwarzenegger had groped women on movie sets.

"This you have done at your peril," Singer wrote to South in his letter, which itself was copyrighted. South said he was surprised that Schwarzenegger had reacted so vehemently to what South considered a small provocation.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger views himself as a brand," said Doug Heller, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a political watchdog group. "Despite the fact that he is a public servant and in the public eye and is subject to all kinds of lampooning, he is very protective of his brand because Arnold is Arnold's biggest profit center."

Los Angeles Times Articles