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December 03, 2003

Jonny Wilkinson – unintentional author of the new celebrity brand manifesto? 

News that England’s latest all-conquering rugby sporting hero is refusing to sell-out to corporate sponsors and marketers as well as the soft-grained “celeb-at-home” magazines, OK and Hello could be setting a radical new manifesto for celebrity branding!

The similarity between Jonny’s stance (he is so famous now, the whole country is on first name terms) and the Beyond-Branding manifesto are uncanny, as an article in this weekend’s Observer revealed!! For example,

Authenticity - 'Since England came back with the World Cup, there's been a huge amount of interest in Jonny. It's been amazingly busy, with a stream of requests from television channels, media outlets, companies and corporate people, all wanting Jonny to do things', said Tim Buttimore, his agent. 'But we have turned them all down because Jonny wants to be known as the best rugby player he can possibly be and not as a celebrity'.

Substance over image – “While actors, singers and television presenters seeking to establish their reputations usually go along with media requests to talk about their personal lives and do revealing photo-shoots, Wilkinson is doing the opposite. 'He seems to think the fame game is shallow and has decided that he doesn't want to play it', said a leading sports agent.”

Honesty – When asked if he would now be recognised in McDonalds, the great man replied, “No, I haven’t been to McDonalds for four years”!!

Transparency – “There are pluses and minuses in Wilkinson’s transparency, and perhaps the minuses are part of the pluses” claims a well-known celebrity publicist.

So the pundits are saying that Wilkinson's stance 'could change the rules of engagement of the celebrity merry-go-round by showing people that you don't have to play the tabloid game, or say yes to every deal you're offered, or show your body off, or sacrifice their normality. He could make a fortune, but instead it looks like he's opted to use his status wittingly or unwittingly to break the mould of celebrity and become a new sort of star whose name is synonymous with substance over style. That is refreshing”
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