We love Brand Ambassadors. There are scores of great reasons to engage a celebrity or high profile ambassador to represent your brand – and none of them are based on access to tickets, signed gear or celeb selfies.
Engaging a popular personality doesn’t just increase your brand’s credibility & drive awareness amongst their fans, it also ‘borrows’ or imbues some of the values of that celebrity onto your brand. Leveraging their success can help establish your brand position, values and benefits. In fact, successfully associating your brand with an icon or creating a memorable celebrity based campaign can bring fame as well as consumer engagement. Think Paul Hogan for Tourism Australia; George Clooney & Jack Black for Nespresso; Scott Cam for Home Hardware; Beyonce for Pepsi; Jane Flemming or Ricky Ponting for Rexona and many, many more.
I’ve been privileged to work with professional and talented high profile personalities: athletes; chefs; actors; reality TV stars; fashion gurus & presenters. Having navigated difficult agents, negotiated numerous contracts, attended more shoots than I remember to develop award winning campaigns, here are my TOP 5 TIPS for success in the world of celebrity endorsement:
1. Choose the right person.
It seems like common sense but you’d be surprised how often brands get it wrong. “The celebrity chosen must be seen in the eyes of the public as linked to the product they endorse. The greater the link, the more customers will trust the message being delivered.” Source: marketing-schools.org Make sure there’s a clear link between the celebrity and your brand offer, benefit or positioning. How do you know? If you have to explain why you want to use them then don’t.
For any personality to be a successful brand ambassador or endorser, they need to be relevant and appealing to your target. The more familiar they are to the largest number of people, the more successful the association will be… and just because your competitor is using a tennis star doesn’t mean you should. Think of how your brand ambassador helps to establish or re-inforce what your brand stands for, tell a story, or help you to gain ground or cut through from your competitive set.
2. Have a plan before you start negotiating – and the budget to bring it to life.
Most professional sportspeople, models, actors and even reality TV stars have significant demands on their time & a firm schedule of fees. It’s essential that you include all elements of the campaign in upfront discussions and formal contracts to make sure you can cover the costs & agree a plan of how you will work around their schedules to get the assets you need. You’ll even need to ensure you cover inclusions in the contract: can they be seen on set/court? In uniform? Can you use their official title or team name? It’s also best to ask who else needs to sign off on the agreement. Often a stipulation in network, professional team or association contracts is approval rights to brand associations. Once you know what you can and can’t do, communicate requirements clearly within your business and with all agency partners and ensure you stick to it. Our secret to success is building a strong relationship with agents to facilitate ongoing material approval, manage appearances and events and fully leverage their social media platforms as well as yours. A successful campaign is in everyone’s best interest!
3. Activate through every touchpoint.
From advertising campaigns to in store communication & packaging, PR interviews, campaign launch, media and key events, customer and consumer engagement, signing merchandise, pieces to camera, behind the scenes access, interviews, a strong presence on their social media and yours, bespoke content, and even internal PR, creating an intrinsic link between the celebrity and your brand gives you the best chance of creating a strong & meaningful association in market. If you’re working on a smaller scale or more niche product then focus on relevance – leverage their fan base and build or drive the association where your consumers are. There’s no point developing an amazing partnership if no-one will see it.
4. Must be easily recognisable & natural.
Everyone loves to be airbrushed but what’s the benefit of paying for a celebrity if no-one recognises who they are? By truly understanding the appeal and strengths of your talent, you can make sure you leverage it in all the right ways. By using a consistent key visual in their “natural environment” so to speak, you can shortcut associations and tap into what drives their success, appeal or fame – for example showing a basketball star on the court in uniform or a reality star on set. Working with a celebrity needs to be approached differently to sponsoring a media platform or sporting event because, quite literally, it’s personal. This also gives you the opportunity to support causes that they invest in, develop tactical communications around professional milestones or play with their persona or reputation in a mutually agreed lighthearted manner. Our point of course is that people need to instantly recognise the celebrity and understand the connection with your brand.
5. Give yourself the option to build your association over time.
Whether it’s through ongoing use of the same celebrity (think Valvoline and John Laws) or different celebs in the same space (Male athletes for Gillette), the brands which have most successfully leveraged celebrity ambassadors have a clear understanding of the role they play for your brand, a view on the lifespan of the association and how the association can take your brand to the next level. Start with a plan and ensure you build extension options or a longer view on timing in your talent contracts so there are no surprises on either side.
While there are well known risks of hitching your brand to a celebrity bandwagon (think Lance Armstrong and Live Strong with Nike), there are also great rewards for driving sales and building brand love. Based on our experience, celebrity associations can deliver business success, impactful campaigns and be fun to work on. So go on – just do it!