As the Pittsburgh Steelers gear up for their season opener against the Atlanta Falcons later this week, they’ll have some added protection. No, I’m not talking about the offensive line (although it’s looking strong, based on preseason performance). I’m talking about the $1 million insurance policy from Llyod’s of London that now covers strong safety Troy Polamalu’s hair.
If you’ve seen Polamalu play, you can’t help but notice the unruly mane protruding from his helmet. Polamalu is of Samoan ancestry, and as a tribute to his heritage hasn’t cut his hair since 2000.
Although there is no doubt a functional aspect to the insurance policy (the policy applies to on-field damage to Polamalu’s hair and would protect Polamalu in situations such as a 2006 incident in which Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson grabbed Polamalu’s hair in order to bring him down after an interception), I tend to see this as a branding move.
We have seen celebrity insurance policies before (See, e.g., Heidi Klum’s legs, Jennifer Lopez’s hindquarters, and Rod Stewart’s voice). At the simplest level, these celebrity insurance policies are fairly straightforward: they hedge against risk by protecting something of value under certain circumstances.
But, in a way, these policies serve more than just an insurance function– they serve a trademark function as well. Any trademark lawyer can tell you that distinctiveness and source indication are both prerequisites when it comes to trademarks. These policies serve a trademark function by reminding consumers of a celebrity’s unique features and help establish that celebrity’s “brand.”