Celebrity Endorsements and Model Release Agreements


Celebrity endorsements are advertising campaigns whereby celebrities or well known public figures are used in promotion of products or services. The benefits of such endorsements include increased sales, brand personification and building brand equity and credibility.

As noted in this interesting Article , celebrity endorsement campaigns have existed since the 1900’s and have been evolving over time. In the 20th century, endorsements were used mainly in promotion of TV commercials and big sponsorship deals. The new millennium brought technological advancements that led to proliferation social media advertising. In this new era, celebrities began to play a role in building brands as brand ambassadors and social media influencers.

As with any advertising campaign, celebrity endorsements require businesses to set aside substantial investments. Consequently, its important to mitigate any risks that may be associated with the engagement of celebrities for advertising campaign.

Risk mitigation can be achieved through using Model Release Agreements. These are contracts that stipulate the terms under which one person grants another rights to use his images or identity for commercial purposes.

Model Release Agreements under Kenyan Law

Under Articles 28 and 31 of the Constitution of Kenya, a person has right to protection of their human dignity and privacy of their identity and likeness. This means that using a person’s images, identity or likeness without their consent is an infringement of his personal rights.

Notably, if the images are set to be exploited for a commercial or profit-making purpose, owner consent must be proved. Failing to do so may expose the user to legal suits and punitive damages. Further, a court can issue an injunction to prohibit further distribution or use of the images.

Kenyan courts regards Model Release Agreements as sufficient evidence of consent to use images.

Key Elements of a Model Release Agreement

The key elements of Model Release Agreement include:-

  1. Description of Parties to the Agreement – Where contracting with an individual, state details such as name, address, identification number. The same applies where the party is a body corporate.
  2. Duration of the Agreement – The Agreement should have a start and end date. It may also be possible to agree to a perpetual use of the images.
  3. Responsibilities of the Parties – Indicate the expectations from each party. What do you expect the celebrity to deliver (video; photos, audio shots) and what will you provide? To avoid disputes, be specific on each party’s deliverable.
  4. Payment and Payment Terms – Define the amounts payable under the contract, the intervals of payment etc.
  5. Intellectual Property Rights – define copyright and ownership rights e.g. does image owner retain ownership of the images?
  6. Scope Release – Provide in clear detail the extent of permissions for use granted under the agreement. Some of the considerations include: is it for public, private or commercial use? is there a geographical scope?
  7. Signature – Don’t forget to sign off the Agreement. The model’s signature is the surest way to prove that consent for the use of images has been granted.


Given the potential business benefits, it is safe to conclude that celebrity endorsements are here to stay. If you wish to engage a celebrity to promote your products on various advertising channels, consider having a Model Release in place. It will save your business from an array of reputation and financial risks.

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