Maximising celebrity endorsement can cross over into that murky world between “advertising” and “PR”. What I am going to describe, below, is how to secure a celebrity for a paid “advertising” campaign. You could also consider how to go on a longer-term mission to encourage a celeb to endorse your client’s product or service just because they want to. That, however, crosses over into the realms of “PR” and usually falls outside the role of an agency Account Manager (and, subsequently, outside the sphere of this article).
You are busy doing the strategic planning for your client’s next campaign and are wondering how to create some added cut-through - some extra “zing”. Someone suggests using a celebrity to lend their name, face and prestige to the campaign. You start to mull over the pros and cons.
- You could tie a celebrity to the brand in the minds of consumers for a very long time.
- You would generate brand awareness.
Celebrity endorsements are not just for the Nikes of this world. Smaller companies can often afford to use celebrities too.
- ROI is sometimes not so easy to calculate, as not everything in a celebrity-centric campaign can be evaluated using traditional metrics.
- If your client’s product/service offering is strong, then you won’t need a celebrity to sell it to consumers.
- Celebrity endorsements are simply sometimes not worth the cost.
- You are at the uncontrollable mercy of how your chosen celebrity behaves in their public and private life. Everyone has positives and negatives to their personalities, and those negatives can easily transfer onto your client’s brand.
You’ll need to:
- Be careful to analyse a celebrity’s market appeal, popularity and commercial value.
- Know your budget, campaign goals and reach requirements.
- Confirm that the celebrity is liked by the audience you are marketing to - they should be generally known and admired.
- Ensure that the product they are endorsing makes sense for them to be affiliated with.
Without all of the above, a celebrity endorsement will look fake and contrived.
How can celebrity endorsement work?
- By creating company/brand/product/service awareness, and creating a recognisable brand.
- By increasing sales.
- By building business prestige.
- By generating publicity.
- It can lead to media and marketing opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available.
- By encouraging the notion of “if we buy what a celebrity buys, then we too can be just like them, and have a piece of their “better” life.”
- By generating “free” publicity. Fans of a celebrity love to keep close tabs on what their celeb is up to. When fans voluntarily tweet, post and blog about a star’s every move (including their endorsements), they become great advertising vehicles for your client’s brand.
- By attaching a celeb’s name to a product or service you can help to build a trust factor among sceptical consumers. The conscious or unconscious assumption is that a celebrity would only want their image or reputation supporting something that was good quality/worthwhile/cool/desirable, therefore it must be OK for them to buy it.
- When you carefully align a celeb’s attributes/personality/reputation/values to a product, service or brand, you are making a strong statement and emphasising those same features in your client’s product, service or brand.
- Endorsements can be symbiotic. It is possible that an alliance to your client’s company, product/service or brand will be mutually beneficial to the celebrity as well as to your client - building the celebrity's own business interests.
- By creating a “halo effect” of association between a celebrity and product (or brand). this will happen whether the celeb is using their chosen product in everyday life, or paid to use the product in staged photos or appearances.
What will the celebrity be required to do?
Let’s assume you have the dollars to spend, and you have decided that investing in a celebrity endorsement (or involvement) is the right move for your client. You will then need to clearly define what you require your celebrity to do. Celebrity involvement can include one or more of the following:
- TV commercials
- Celebrity spokesperson campaigns
- Print campaigns
- Website endorsements
- Various types of promotions
- Media events
- Keynote speeches / speaking engagements
- Product launches
- Licensing deals
- MC-ing / event hosting
- Private concerts
- Fundraising events
- Public service announcements
- Cooking demonstrations
- Personal appearances
- Autograph signings
- Meet and greets
- Celebrity golf tournaments
- Corporate appearances
- Celebrity voiceovers
- Celebrity infomercials
- Endorsements for: fashion, shoes, fragrances, cars, alcohol, merchandise, services, video games, soft drinks / sports drinks, food, etc.
What type of celebrity can you hire?
- A-list Hollywood superstars
- B–Z-list actors (and former actors)
- Reality TV celebrities
- Internet celebrities
- Celebrity chefs
- Talkshow hosts
- Sports stars (and former sports stars)
- Business moguls
- Well-known industry-specific people: e.g. technology, real estate, health and wellness, marketing, business, etc.
- For standard agreements you can expect to pay a hefty upfront fee. For a good overview of the minimum fees some celebrities charge, check out the Celebrity Talent website.
- Some agreements require money to be paid on the back end (similar to a profit-share deal), especially if the up-front fee has been reduced.
- Celebs may only travel first class (or private jet), with 5-star hotels, lavish meals, riders and limousines.
- Don’t forget you will also be hiring the celebrity’s entourage too…
- …then, of course, you have the cost of production of your campaign…
- A celebrity endorsement need not cost the earth. If your client cannot offer large sums, they could possibly offer a contra agreement (offering goods or services in return for an endorsement, rather than cash), or perhaps an equity or profit share agreement (such as in the case of a business startup).
- Valuable celebrity support can also be gained via social media. Many celebrities can be paid to tweet about a product/service to their fan base. This is a cheaper alternative than using their endorsement in a full-blown advertising campaign. Celebrity social media endorsements can help raise your client’s profile very quickly, add credibility, gain valuable publicity and even help your client gain new followers themselves.
How to contact celebrities
The best and quickest way to gain a celebrity endorsement is to approach the agent (or manager) of the celebrity. You can do this directly, yourself. This may take a bit of time to hunt them down, but it’s usually quite easy. Google can help (e.g. type in “[name of celebrity] agent”; or “[name of celebrity] manager”). Remember, celebrities do not usually wish to be contacted directly, but their agents do. They are always on the look-out for ways to make money for their clients.
Another way to get an agent’s contact details is to look on your chosen celebrity’s website under “contact details” - any contact information there will probably belong to their agent.
Contact Any Celebrity is a paid website service which you can use to help locate the agent/manager of your chosen celebrity.
Using a third party
To arrange a celebrity endorsement or involvement, there are a number of websites that can help. You will be paying an additional fee for their services, but this method may cut your overall planning and administration time drastically. These services are used to working with celebrities and their agents. They know how to play the game, how to best facilitate the contract and how to ensure the whole process runs smoothly.
The following are a selection of websites which can assist you to locate and arrange a celebrity endorsement for your campaign. Please note that I do not personally recommend any of these sites, and there are probably many more out there offering similar services.
Agencies such as Adly specialise in creating Twitter and Facebook campaigns using celebrities.
The Q Scores website offers a service to measure consumer appeal (likeability) of personalities, characters, licensed properties, programmes and brands. This could be useful information to have before you embark on engaging a celebrity for your campaign.
Agents and Managers
Agents - by nature and mandate - are very protective of their clients. You will need to supply them with as many details as you can for them to seriously consider your request:
- Your contact details.
- Your client's name.
- Description of the campaign and product/service they would be endorsing.
- What your requirements would be.
- Where the production would take place.
- Storyboards, scamps or concepts (if you have them).
- The country(s) where the campaign would feature.
- Detail of the collateral which would carry the celebrity’s face, name, endorsement, etc (including printed collateral, TVCs, digital ads, Facebook graphics/posts, YouTube, etc).
- Length of time the campaign will run.
- Your budget.
- What’s in it for the celebrity.
You are selling your proposition to the celebrity’s agent or manager. They are the “gate-keeper” that needs to buy-in to your offer first. Be polite, never pushy.
Both the agent and celebrity will need to see the connection between celebrity and brand. That means you need to have done your homework thoroughly first, and be able to offer a logical proposition.
Before you sign on the dotted line
The celebrity says “yes”…that’s terrific! Here are a few last things to keep in mind before you sign any contractual agreement binding your client to someone else’s stardom (and/or notoriety):
- Can your client truly afford to pay the celebrity’s fee?
- Will you have the right to renew the contract (or continue to use the same collateral) if you ever repeat the campaign? What will the costs be to renew?
- Have you ensured that your chosen celebrity is perfectly suited to your audience’s wants and needs? Endorsement by someone unsuitable - no matter how famous - will backfire.
- Have you made sure there is genuine buy-in with your chosen celebrity? It’s all very well to pay for a celebrity’s services, but if they genuinely like and support your product/service then they are more likely to support you out of sheer enthusiasm, which will shine through your campaign.
Have you made sure you have performance tracking mechanisms in place prior to the start of your campaign?
Yes? All good? Then go for it, and don’t forget to get an autograph!
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Sarah Ritchie is the founder of AM-Insider - a website bursting with tips, tricks and resources to create account management superstars in the advertising, design, PR, experiential and print industries. Sarah has been involved in account management for 25 years and has a passion for encouraging, mentoring and helping others succeed.
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