This is a fantastic series of case studies on BNET about what not to do from a marketing perspective. I really like this site and hope it stays around for awhile. Go read the entire piece.
RULE #5: (aka “All Fired Up and Nowhere to Go”)
A few years ago, the late night TV host David Letterman announced, as a joke, that he needed $3000 from a sponsor in order to pay the cost of setting a stunt man on fire. A Cupertino-based distributor of Apple computers, playing along with the joke, faxed a commitment of $6000 for two shows. Letterman duly staged the stunt and, as a result, the distributor’s company name was flashed on the screen as the “man on fire” careened around the television studio. While this may have been amusing from a comedy standpoint, it wasn’t perhaps entirely prudent from a corporate image standpoint, considering that at the time, Apple laptops were being recalled because their batteries were overheating and bursting into flames.