Frontline Marketing

William Shatner Reflects On His Career As Brand Spokesman

william shatner close up image

By | November 28, 2017 |

  • In an interview with AListDaily, William Shatner said, "There is a revolution going on in marketing.”
  • Much like his notable relationship with Priceline, the 86-years-old actor's latest ambassadorship with start-up LottoGopher includes company assets that extend in perpetuity.

William Shatner has honed the sense of what sells over several decades while plying his trade across a cavalcade of acting, writing and directing credits, most notably as captain James T. Kirk in the Star Trek franchise.

For those not old enough to recall Shatner’s stint on the USS Enterprise, the octogenarian reentered the cultural conversation at the turn of the millennium on shows such as The Practice and Boston Legal, and more prominently with years-long promos as the celebrity pitchman for Priceline as the online travel site’s “negotiator.”

The brand ambassadorship, which entailed Shatner agreeing to do the spots in exchange for stock in the company from 1997 to 2012, turned out to be a prosperous one for the Canadian actor, who reportedly made a considerable profit from the options he secured as soon as Priceline stock started to skyrocket.

At 86-years-old, Shatner is still going strong with a sharp eye toward the future, trying to find a seat at the table of brand innovation and disruption. Earlier this year, he saddled in as a spokesperson with start-up LottoGopher, an online messenger service that allows consumers to order and manage state lottery tickets online.

In an interview with AListDaily, Shatner said he was intrigued by the brand because he deemed it as a social-first company of the future that is looking to disrupt the $70 billion US lottery market.

“LottoGopher is in the same position [as Priceline was] because it really works,” Shatner said in a conversation from his office in Los Angeles. “Although LottoGopher is not going to save your life, it’s part of the principal for the future. ‘What is happening next year? In five years? In 10 years? What will my children and grandchildren be interested in? How will they live?’”

Shatner is also using his science stardom as a “man of the future” to position himself in verticals like solar power (Solar Alliance Energy), electric bikes (Pedego) and other kinds of alternative ideas because such advancements “cannot be denied for the survival of mankind,” he says.

James Morel, president and CEO of LottoGopher, said Shatner’s profile and status landed the actor as the first spokesperson on his personal wish list.

“He brings certain credibility to us on the public market side because he’s known as a good stock picker,” Morel told AListDaily. “I’m not saying Mr. Shatner drove Priceline’s stock prices, but you do associate him with the brand as the Priceline negotiator. He’s legendary in marketing and public stock stories.”

To stress such importance as a marketer and pitchman, Shatner said it all starts with messaging that conveys the disruptive qualities of a product that actually works. It’s largely the reason why Priceline survived the dot-com bubble, he said, because “there is a way of selling something good.”

“There is a revolution going on in marketing,” Shatner said. “I am not so callow as to think I’m telling consumers anything that they don’t know already. But where is that revolution? . . . It takes a mistake to understand ‘that was a mistake.’ We’ll learn from those mistakes. You’ve got to keep your eyes open as to what’s happening. You’ve got to be adept at innovation—and if you fail at one of the innovations, don’t worry about it because the next one will be successful.”

Shatner says the spokesperson-consumer relationship has fundamentally changed throughout his career—most recently due to the rise of social media platforms. Millennials are seemingly the core consumer the brands he’s working with are targeting, but even he admitted that he doesn’t realize why he resonates so well with the group.

“It’s just me talking,” Shatner said. “Whatever it is, I’m willing to reach out in advance to look at new things positively. I think people may sense that and follow me.

“There is no question social media is what’s happening. All other types of marketing are fading. Everything is different. People over the age of 25 are walking around thinking ‘how do I get a movie? How do I sign up for this, or that? Everything is new and yet, it’s simplified and getting more user-friendly . . . I like to participate in new things. I’d rather explore what is happening.”

Even though he’s nearing 90, it sounds like Shatner has no plans to slow down on his quest to discovery. He’s still touring the one-man Broadway show, “Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It,” and earlier this year lengthened his dossier as a scribe with the book “Spirit of the Horse: A Celebration in Fact and Fable.”

Shatner said he doesn’t know if there’s ever a right time to jump on board with a brand, but LottoGopher fit into his personal business plan. His one-year deal with the start-up includes company assets that extend in perpetuity.

In the meantime, he’ll keep talking up LottoGopher’s social-first, digital qualities as “something that should take the country by storm. It’s an idea that should be popular the same way Uber and Netflix became popular overnight. Everyone knows it’s a gamble, but it’s a very popular activity to buy a lottery ticket with hopes of instantaneous riches. These are disruptive industries taking what was there before and changing it.

“We’re rounding the corner—or we’re there now. It’s hard to tell,” Shatner said in a prophetic tone. “But those who aren’t advancing with the sciences will be left behind.”