Brands have been calling on celebrities and influencers for years and, if my social feed is anything to go by, it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Whether it be class A celebs or Instagram influencers, brands are constantly seeking ways to leverage profile and following for their own gain, but at what point does an influencer over-saturate, become irrelevant and their value less noteworthy?
This is a question I asked myself recently while listening to an interview with Aussie cricketing legend Michael Clarke, who was talking to a high-profile radio duo about the work he was doing with brands –10 of them no less!
As he reeled them off with pride and (questionable) justification, it became apparent the role and relevance he played to the brand might not be authentic. He may have resigned his captaincy from the Australian Cricket Team, but who has the time to provide proper value and contribution to that many brands? As it turns out, it’s more than you think.
Here are my tips to finding the sweet spot and getting value for money when using celebrities and influencers:
Start with the why
Why do you think celebrities or influencers are the right approach for your brand? What outcomes and results are you expecting this association to deliver? Simply having massive reach, a high profile and a large social footprint doesn’t necessarily make them a good match for your brand. This needs to be a well thought through, mutually beneficial, match made in heaven partnership.
Choose your celebrity with care
Get your story straight and think about who can tell it best.
UnderArmour recently had its first stab at branded content with its five-part ‘Huddle Up’ series, starring Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Targeting high-school football players, it endeavoured to create a video series that was motivating and inspiring for young athletes. Choosing Cam Newton to tell this particular story was authentic to both UnderArmour and Newton.
UnderArmour has continued its success of working with celebrity ambassadors, including Manchester United’s Memphis Depay, Michael Phelps, Gisele Bündchen and Stephen Curry. It chooses carefully and executes well and, judging by its significant growth trajectory, it clearly pays dividends for the bottom line.
Find a lover
Choosing a celebrity who already loves and uses your brand is a no-brainer. The benefits are infinite; it makes for an authentic, believable partnership and allows for a smoother ride in negotiating the critical deliverables you expect from an ambassador.
Ellie Goulding and Nike organically developed a relationship, as Goulding was a longtime lover of Nike. The brand is woven into the fabric of her personal and ‘on-stage’ life as Ellie embraces the functional fashion of the brand, as well as genuinely adopting an attitude of strength that serves as an inspiration for her fans. Over the years, Ellie has collaborated with Nike to create new shoe lines as well as customised workouts.
Authenticity is key
The most successful brand ambassadors are those who are able to truly be themselves, are given free reign and are trusted to be a spokesperson. While there are messages they undoubtedly need to convey, it’s key to let them say them in a way that’s authentic and true to their character.
Optus famously paid Ricky Gervais to ‘not make an ad’ for the launch of Netflix. It became the fastest brand video to reach four million views in Australian Facebook history and made headlines around the world. Claimed as ‘genuinely funny’, acting with ‘integrity’ and ‘brave’, this multi-award winning campaign hit the stratosphere of amazing stats (52 pieces of PR in Australia, a reach of over 4.6 million people, positive sentiment of 97 per cent, oh and they made Ellen!)
But did it do the job on launching Netflix? Hell yeah. The campaign generated over one million leads for Optus in the first 24 hours. Since then, Optus has continued its relationship with Ricky Gervais with a series of subsequent and equally hilarious content pieces rolling out, including the launch of the new iPhone in late 2015.
Create a symbiotic relationship
DC is a great example of a brand that has a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with its ambassador, Australian stunt bike rider Robbie Maddison.
When Robbie wanted to fulfil his long-term goal of completing the Pipe Dream (that’s surfing on a bike to you and me!), he approached global sponsor DC Shoes and they made it happen. Of course the PR alone was worth it, however DC was able to create a cinematic masterpiece capturing this epic, never-before-performed stunt. The film has generated over 22 million views (and counting) and, while it shows this incredible Pipe Dream in all its glory, it clearly demonstrates the collaborative effort involved between Robbie and DC; a story further told through supporting behind-the-scenes content.
Leverage your collective strengths to develop a value proposition the audience actually want. This takes your brand out of the mould of using a celebrity to ‘sell’ something.
Caitlyn Jenner recently collaborated with MAC to launch a signature lipstick and 100 per cent of sales went directly to the Transgender Foundation. The benefit of MAC working with Caitlyn is a massive PR opportunity, hugely positive and also a two-way street. Working with Caitlyn, it was able to appeal to an existing audience, open up to potential new customers and, importantly, make a difference with their collective strength.
Choosing a celebrity as your brand ambassador certainly comes with some risk. Brands have made plenty of expensive mistakes (Kate Moss famously lost Chanel after being caught with an illicit substance and Britney drank Coca-Cola while representing Pepsi). If there’s an issue, confront it and have a strong PR strategy in place before the media uncover it on your behalf.
Think about implementing relationship rules, dos and don’ts, brand onboarding, brand guidelines, workshop creative ideas, messaging etc.
Size isn’t everything
Budget doesn’t always allow for a high-profile celebrity to be the new representative of your brand. Australian DJ Alison Wonderland has been a firm favourite of Adidas for years. She wore the brand consistently long before Adidas supported the DJ’s recent merchandise line. As Wonderland significantly builds her following worldwide, Adidas benefits from this growth, fan base and perfectly aligned association of values.
Amplify, measure and review
Last but not least is the critical nature of planning and executing a well thought through strategy for amplifying and measuring your brand ambassador partnership. Relying on the celebrity’s/influencer’s channels alone is not sufficient to get your brand consistent, long-term results. In today’s world of paid, a great idea needs to be put in front of the right audience at the right time with measurable KPIs dictated from the start. As the campaign/partnership rolls out, be prepared to review, be honest and optimise against what’s working and what’s not.