Everyone not under a rock recently learned that you can soon purchase – for a mere $375 – a personalized video greeting from America’s former mayor turned outcast Rudy Giuliani (perhaps even with copious hair dye streaming down his face if he gets riled enough). For those of us new to this modern “touch with D-lister greatness” phenomenon, you may be interested to learn that some of the “celebrities” promise to donate “a portion of the proceeds” to a specified charity. For example, I looked up Guiliani's (former) cohort Donald Trump Jr. and his Cameo page states that he charges $500 for a booking with “A portion of proceeds will be donated to Shadow Warriors Project.”
If you’ve read any of my prior blog posts (and if so, I thank you), the words “portion of proceeds to charity” should set off alarms in your cause marketing brains. Because you know that you don’t know how much that really means. Sometimes a person or brand can get away with such vague messages, but not if it’s a commercial co-venture.
So, is this a commercial co-venture? Cameo thinks it could be between the “Talent” and the charity. Cameo’s Terms of Service recognizes that the Talent’s booking page “may indicate that all or a portion of the Talent’s revenue will go to a charity.” To this, Cameo adds: “Cameo is not a sponsor of, does not endorse, and is not affiliated with the Charity and is not a commercial co-venturer with respect to such arrangements.”
Further, under the “Fundraising” section of the “Talent Terms of Service,” it states: “You represent and warrant that you will comply with all applicable laws and regulations relating to that identification or the Charity, including making disclosures, registering, or entering into any agreement, such as a commercial co-venture agreement …”
Let’s go to the statutes.
New York’s statute has a common definition of “commercial co-venturer”:
“Any person who profit is regularly and primarily engaged in trade or commerce other than in connection with the raising of funds or any other thing of value for a charitable organization and who advertises that the purchase or use of goods, services, entertainment, or any other thing of value will benefit a charity organization.” N.Y. Exec. Law §171-a(6).
“Person” -- ✓
“Regularly and primarily engaged in trade or commerce” – Probably
“Advertises” -- ✓
“That the purchase of services or entertainment” -- ✓
“Will benefit a charity” -- ✓
The aye’s have it.
And as you should know, Alabama, Massachusetts, and Mississippi have even broader language in their statutes. For instance, under Massachusetts law a commercial co-venturer only need to make a “profit or other commercial consideration” and “conduct, produce [or] promote … a performance, event or sale to the public of a … service which is advertised in conjunction with the name of any charitable organization or as benefitting to any extent any charitable purpose.” Mass. Gen. Law Ch. 68, Sec. 18.
I can’t find an easy out of that one.
Maybe our Cameo D-listers are complying with commercial co-venture laws by at least registering in the applicable states, having a contract with the charity, and keeping records for three years. But, it doesn’t appear that the disclosure requirements are being met when many states require disclosure of the specific amount (in dollars or by percentage) going to charity. And for this, we here at You Might Be a Winner shout a loud “You’re Fired” to those trying to drum up (untold) profits by touting a charity on their Cameo page.