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The breakfast of champions: Do you know what that is?

If you responded with "Wheaties" to the above headline question, there's a clear takeaway in today's blog post, namely this: celebrity endorsements work.

And there is ample empirical evidence of that, at least in the case of General Mills' long-offered morning staple. An "I like Wheaties" nod given by a prominent celebrity -- with Wheaties, always an athletic superstar -- clearly results in an uptick at the cash register for that product.

A professor at Harvard Business School who has conducted in-depth research on marketing campaigns that focus on celebrity product endorsements concludes that they unquestionably improve the bottom line for businesses taking the plunge, with a caveat.

And that is this, as noted in an article discussing the subject: The magic elixir for successful celebrity endorsements is "choosing the right people at the right moment."

That is, not too soon or too late.

And the decision to seek a prominent person's signature on an endorsement contract must be duly prefaced by the same advance due diligence that accompanies any other business deal. The above-cited article notes what is called "reputational risk."

The bottom line with that, if, say, you're a General Mills marketing executive eyeing a winning quarterback who just won the Super Bowl: You don't want to see it. In fact, athletes that are perceived as coming with negative baggage of any sort, well, they don’t' generally score endorsement deals (although a bad-boy image can actually serve well in a limited marketing sphere).

If you eat Wheaties, you can rest assured of one thing the next time you're munching those whole wheat flakes and staring at the sports icon on the cereal box who's looking back at you: he or she has been exhaustively vetted.

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