Dressed head to toe in the latest outdoor gear, Princess Anne’s daughter Zara Tindall looked right at home modelling items from the sportswear brand, Musto. The latest shoot was another successful media moment for the royal and the British clothing company thanks to an accompanying interview talking about mother Princess Anne, which resulted in ample coverage across Britain’s most-read newspapers.
The campaign is part of an ongoing ambassadorship for the former Olympic equestrian Zara, rumoured to be worth £500,000 ($570,000 USD), and sits alongside some of the many big-money deals by the late Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughter and her husband, Mike Tindall.
Just a week earlier it had been revealed that Mike, who played for the England rugby team between 2001 and 2011, has accepted an offer from ITV’s reality show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here — a primetime series famous for putting its celebrity contestants through gruelling trials involving such horrors as being buried alive or buckets of bugs or offal dumped over your head.
It’s a gig that can command up to £500,000 for big enough names, especially if the participating talent is able to guarantee network bosses the right headlines (which, in turn, result in higher ratings). During my years covering entertainment news, I remember how detailed the contracts were between contestants and production companies for shows like this, often specifically listing what revealing stories they would be able to deliver. I hear from sources that it’s been a similar scenario for Mike, who has allegedly agreed to not be tight-lipped about life inside the royal fold. It makes sense — that’s what many viewers will be tuning in for.
Cashing in on royal status is usually a trigger to dedicated royalists and media outlets, many of whom have spent the past two years complaining about the various business antics of a certain royal couple in California, so I find it peculiar that this recent news about the Tindalls’ various royal cash-ins come and go without even a sound from the most sensitive of columnists.
In fact it’s been quite the opposite. A recent tabloid article went as far as celebrating the Tindall’s influencer status, tallying up over £1 million ($1.2 million) in brand deals, which include a CBD oil company and a controversial COVID-19 test results app. “They're two of the most in-demand members of the Royal Family,” the article applauded. “…masters at signing lucrative deals.”
And, listen, I personally find nothing wrong with Zara and Mike securing every bag on offer. With their sporting backgrounds, sponsorships—albeit at lower sums—would have always been available to them during their careers. Zara won BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2006 and a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics while Mike won the 2003 World Cup. But it’s impossible to deny that the big bucks only come because of their positions as Royal Family members. A closer look at each partnership signed will show that press releases for most have made at least one royal reference and, if there isn’t, it always comes up in accompanying interviews. (It was no different when Princess Anne’s other child, Peter Philips, promoted Bright Dairies milk in China for a 2020 campaign set against palace-like visuals. He may be an accomplished businessman, but only a fool would believe the company chose him as a spokesperson because of his boardroom successes).
While neither Zara nor Mike have titles, HRH status or working roles, their adjacency to The Firm and the late Queen Elizabeth II has been enough to get many brands and wealthy figures salivating. Both have found success in sports, but the couple’s real USP is royalty.
Two years ago it was revealed that a Hong Kong business man had been paying Zara £100,000 ($115,000) for horse-racing advice, and the same individual had also given £300,000 ($340,000) to Sarah, Duchess of York for “marketing and promotion” activities and later attended Princess Eugenie’s wedding. You start to question whether these exchanges are just about brands or individuals trying to position themselves closer to the Royal Family. A golden ticket, if you will.
The rules around sponsorships for non-working Royal Family members are equal parts confusing and selective. For the Sussexes, who are no longer in working roles or using their HRH titles, every penny received or contract signed has been heavily scrutinised by the British media. Even when the couple used their own money to become investors in a fintech asset manager, it didn’t take long for the criticism to pour in about who else might have been on the board or what companies the firm had ties with.
It boils back to that selective outrage that is all too familiar to anyone following the bubble of the royal beat. A hypocritical world in which royal protocol is rarely a real thing and usually a fictional vehicle used by tabloids to pin negative narratives on whoever it is they need hate-clicks from at the time. (Even at the Queen's state funeral, the Sussexes were publicly lambasted for holding hands but the Tindalls, who did exactly the same, were hailed as respectful).
I’m just curious how the protocol police are going to find a way to still find it respectable when the late Queen’s grandson-in-law spends three-weeks on a tawdry reality series. If the wrong colour nail polish was once able to see the resurgence of the Salem Witch Trials, surely eating raw kangaroo anus to entertain TV viewers for a cheque should result in an all out media meltdown. Right?