Soocial Hassels The Hoff

Funny story on Dutch business blog Sprout this morning: Soocial, an Amsterdam-based digital contact management startup, talks about its quarrels with actor and singer David Hasselhoff.

Here’s how the story started: Soocial, an angel investor-backed startup that provides a simple but powerful contact synchronization service for both the Web and mobile phones, figured ‘hassle-free address book management’ fit its core product perfectly as a description when it was founded about two years ago.

As a gimmick, they associated the baseline with the freedom-looking Knight Rider and Baywatch actor and started using images and footage of the Hoff as part of their marketing message (see video below).

Turns out Hasselhoff wasn’t all too pleased with the unauthorized use of his image, prompting him to have his lawyers send a cease and desist letter to the fledgling company. The message was clear: Soocial was to remove all images of David Hasselhoff from its website, videos and business cards or legal action would ensue.

First, the startup tried to stall the process by delaying any response to letters or e-mail that was sent to them, and (unsuccessfully) attempted to make personal contact with the celebrity more than once. They ended up getting Hasselhoff’s agent excited by planting the idea of producing official endorsement videos for Soocial, featuring the actor, in his head.

The initial excitement ebbed away rather swiftly when the agent learned that Soocial wasn’t able to actually pay for those videos: he wanted $250,000, close to the total of capital that has been injected into the startup by angel investors to date.

Soocial didn’t give up and instead took it up a notch: they offered Hasselhoff equity in the company in exchange for a potential endorsement, and tried to sweeten the deal by playing the card of much-needed positive publicity that would ensue should the actor support a small, innovative company.

The Hoff didn’t bite, and Soocial stopped using unlicensed material for marketing purposes.

Guess it just wasn’t worth the hassle.