Celebrity Ambassadors: A worthwhile investment or a whole lot of hype?

Posted on: July 12th, 2012

When coming up with ideas to generate publicity for a brand, one of the inevitable suggestions that will arise in a brainstorm is a celebrity ambassador. The reason behind this is fairly obvious – we live in a celebrity fuelled culture where many can’t get enough of Kim Kardashian and her latest relationship or Lara Bingle and her latest scandal, so why not jump onboard and ride the publicity wave that often comes with a celebrity association? You have to ask how will a celebrity endorsement be truly beneficial to the brand and is the investment really worth it?

Among the less credible endorsements there have been many successful examples of celebrity/brand partnerships, particularly on a global scale, including Katy Perry for ghd and Dita Von Teese for Cointreau, both of which Stellar* has been involved in publicising. These particular campaigns worked really well due to the Australian media’s appetite for both the celebrities and the campaigns they were promoting. They are both ideal representatives for the respective brands, appeal strongly to the local audience, while the advertising and PR worked hand in hand to achieve mass awareness and engagement. Given some of our first-hand experience we’ve compiled a checklist of considerations to think about when leveraging a celebrity/brand partnership.

  • What are your objectives for signing on a celebrity ambassador and what outcomes do you hope to achieve-is it simply about having a famous face fronting the ad campaign or is it about communicating the brand’s key messages using an effective and media-enticing medium.
  • Has budget or time been set aside for PR/ editorial use?  A good interview with well thought out questions and accompanying photo shoot can be the hero piece of coverage of a campaign.
  • Does the celebrity represent what the brand stands for or are there conflicts of interest to watch out for? This may sound obvious, but you have to ask if they are a genuinely credible fit for the brand. It’s pretty questionable to sign on a personality to front an alcohol campaign if they don’t drink or, worse still, have previously had a drink problem but this has happened.
  • Be prepared for any potential issues that may prevent your ambassador from being able to carry out the contract. Celebrities can often have quite challenging demands and can be unpredictable at the best of times. I once witnessed my colleagues at another agency put hundreds of hours into a publicity stunt involving a ‘famous mermaid’ and a theme park. Eight hours before she was supposed to land in the country, my colleagues were advised that she was no longer coming due to the recent death of her pet llama. Fortunately they managed to find a plan b!
  • What other endorsements does your chosen ambassador have that could cause a conflict of interest with your brand? Some celebrities endorse many brands at the same time; they may also have their own fashion or perfume labels that they need to spruik. Over-exposure and media saturation makes pitching an exclusive media interview pretty challenging.
  • When working with a global ambassador, make sure the celebrity is genuinely appealing to an Australian audience. If not, would it be more beneficial to allocate budget to employ a celebrity with local relevance?  L’Oreal Paris does a great job of employing global ambassadors as well as local personalities to front their campaigns. The brand’s global line-up includes Andie MacDowell, Claudia Schiffer and Jennifer Lopez who all have international appeal. However, to ensure resonance in the Australian market they recently employed Megan Gale and the partnership has achieved widespread exposure.
  • What PR assets will you have available in order to leverage the partnership further? Time with a celebrity is expensive and limited so be smart with the assets you can use.  Ad campaign images, TVC clips, pre-answered Q&As and quotes are all extremely valuable.
  • What kind of coverage do you expect from the endorsement – is quality or quantity more important? This all comes down to negotiations with your chosen media. Would you prefer coverage with a mention of your brand and ambassador in the final line of the article or one or two high quality pieces of coverage with questions about the campaign throughout the interview, ensuring the reader is fully aware of the celebrity’s involvement with the brand?
  • Lastly, what does success look like for your client’s celebrity-driven campaign- is it achieving multiple pieces of coverage, winning an award, changing hearts and minds about a brand? Set the KPIs early on and keep referring to these to ensure the campaign is on track and money well invested.

Celebrity campaigns are a great way of getting brand awareness and mass exposure if they are planned well and the goals of the campaign are established from the very beginning. Similarly, if PR is carefully considered from the outset and some of the points listed above are taken into account then your campaign has the best springboard possible to achieve widespread, high quality coverage.

Have you worked on any really successful celebrity campaigns?   Let us know.

Posted by Sharonne Lipman


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