At a time when more and more companies are promoting their products on a wide variety of channels, it’s more important than ever to find ways to stand out from the crowd. And choosing the right multipliers can make a huge difference.
Thus, "Celebrity Brand Ambassador" is a real job and there’s no getting around in the 2021 marketing landscape. If the goal of your integrated brand campaign is to attract attention and improve your company's image, adding a celebrity to the marketing mix can make all the difference.
For example, consider the 2014 collaboration between Calvin Klein and Justin and Hailey Bieber — the black-and-white campaign images quickly went viral and the media response was enormous. Of course, Calvin Klein knew what they were doing: the Biebers have an en masse social following of 150 million and were sure to bring the sex appeal the brand was looking for.
Unsurprisingly, the campaign was the talk of the town for weeks and provided the brand with a huge upsurge in popularity — especially among younger audiences.
To provide more context and take a deep dive into why celebrity brand ambassadors are useful, this article will outline the main advantages of utilizing a prominent face. However, in an effort to provide objectivity, we’ll also discuss the risks you should be aware of and what to pay attention to when selecting and handling partners so that the investment pays off in the end.
Why Celebrity Brand Ambassadors Can Pay Off
Before we start, let’s first define what a brand ambassador is: A brand ambassador is someone hired by a brand to portray them in a positive light, help increase brand awareness, and work towards achieving company goals.
Often seen as opinion leaders or influential members of their community, brand ambassadors can have a significant impact on sales figures through their popularity and influence — after all, word-of-mouth marketing can generate more than twice the sales of paid marketing.
In a so-called “celebrity endorsement”, one or more celebrities are used to advertise a brand’s service or product. The goal of such a campaign is to reach a larger audience with the help of the brand ambassador’s existing fanbase. Additionally, a well-structured brand ambassador campaign should transfer the positive associations that fans connect with the celebrity to the advertised products.
Did you know that 71% of marketers believe ongoing brand ambassador campaigns are the most effective form of influencer marketing — not to mention a great way to reach new and existing customers?
Keeping those impressive stats in mind, let’s take a look at some celebrity brand ambassador examples and how they paid off.
Mini Case Study: Nespresso
When most consumers think of Nespresso, their minds immediately go to George Clooney — whose charming, mischievous personality and renowned celebrity quickly turned Nespresso into a must-have brand with humorous commercials and suave billboards.
Nespresso paid Clooney $40 million for this collaboration — and it was money well spent. Not only did sales increase by 30% in one year alone, but Clooney has also sworn to remain with the brand until the end, despite alleged child labor reports.
Social influencers who are well-known on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or Tiktok are also popular choices as brand ambassadors. Although they’re often less familiar to the general public, they have loyal fan bases who trust their advice. Therefore, they command a high degree of respect within their community and often have a certain “expert” status — which, in turn, can be extremely helpful when it comes to credibility.
However, if you’re aiming for a broader, possibly older target group and want more PR coverage, then classic celebrity brand ambassadors, like George Clooney, should be your first choice.
What Are the Benefits of Celebrity Ambassadors?
We’re all aware that many well-known brands are successfully using celebrity ambassadors. But what exactly are they hoping to achieve by employing these famous faces?
Here are some of the top advantages of a successful celebrity campaign:
1. More Brand Attention
In the age of information overload, many stimuli are often ignored. Only those that are perceived as truly important catch consumers’ attention and sink into their consciousness. Therefore, celebrities serve as eye-catchers and attention magnets for advertisements.
2. Higher Sales
The right brand ambassador creates trust with consumers and, thus, has a positive impact on their purchase decisions. Celebrity brand ambassadors can also improve a brand’s value and increase sales by up to 4%. Furthermore, they can also improve a brand’s overall image.
3. Positive Image Transfer From the Ambassador
When engaging in a celebrity endorsement, the reputation that precedes the chosen celebrity is automatically transferred to the advertised product or brand. Ideally, that means primarily positive associations are transferred to the advertised brand.
A great example of this phenomenon can be seen in the 2008 partnership between talk show host Ellen Degeneres and cosmetics brand CoverGirl. By partnering with a 50-year-old queer woman, the brand broke new ground and was able to appeal to more consumers.
Source: Kelsey Baldwin
The campaign was focused on shattering beauty standards, and the collaboration was a huge success — CoverGirl became the first US cosmetics brand to reach $1 billion in sales within a year of partnering with Ellen.
4. Higher Recognition Value
How many consumers recognize your brand? Your logo, colors, or slogan? Brand recognition is extremely important, and, of course, also very difficult to attain. Consumers forget brands all the time — and the market is extremely oversaturated.
However, most of the time, a product stays in a consumer’s mind much longer if they associate it with a celebrity. Thus, the recognition value of the brand in question becomes significantly higher.
How to Find the Perfect Brand Ambassador
The above-mentioned advantages are, of course, very persuasive arguments in favor of using celebrity ambassadors for many a marketing strategist. However, celebrities also tie up a fair amount of the marketing budget and the risks (which we'll get to later) are not to be ignored either.
Therefore, when selecting a celebrity brand ambassador, you should consider some important factors to make the collaboration a success, such as:
Good Brand Fit
It’s important that your chosen brand ambassador is easily identifiable with your brand. To create a partnership that works, your brand ambassador must appear authentic and stand behind your brand and its values. Thus, Brand fit plays a particularly important role here, and thorough research should be conducted to determine whether previous collaborations, projects, and personal public actions of the potential ambassador match your brand values.
Credibility is another important factor in determining whether a collaboration will be a success or a flop. Brand ambassador testimonials must be authentic and viewed as "real". This is only possible if the ambassador themselves has a positive public image and is popular with the brand’s core target group.
Of course, the general public must also like your chosen brand ambassador. A good example of this is David Beckham, who’s been promoting Adidas since 2003 with his signature suave, charming personality.
This relationship works well because the values of both the brand and the chosen ambassador mesh well. And, as a world-famous sports star, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t see Beckham and Adidas as a natural, credible fit.
The public's interest in a potential ambassador is another important factor to consider. The greater the interest — from both the press and the public — the more successful the campaign is likely to be.
In 2017, P&G-owned brand Head & Shoulders signed Sofia Vergara as its newest brand ambassador, launching a very successful ad campaign. In the video spot, Vergara helps her son prepare for an interview. When he scratches his head, she offers him Head & Shoulders shampoo as a solution.
An award-winning actress who’s extremely well-liked by the public, Vergara was a great choice for a celebrity brand ambassador. She’s charismatic, funny, and aspirational. And most importantly, Vergara actually uses Head & Shoulders and has for more than 20 years. This also lends itself to the credibility of the partnership.
Another aspect of the relationship to consider before signing a contract? The ambassador’s skill in building and maintaining connections. Essentially, their competence.
Ask yourself: Is this potential ambassador communicative and well connected? Do they feel comfortable interacting with media representatives and consumers? Do they have charisma and a high level of communicative competence?
By asking these types of questions, you’ll be able to get a better feel for if this person is the right overall fit as your brand ambassador.
Additionally, an ideal ambassador has a good reputation — which should also rub off on your brand. They should be able to quickly establish and maintain new, important contacts and, ideally, be active on social media with a dedicated following. While it’s great to have a big-name ambassador on your side, it’s also important that they’re able to uphold their end of the bargain.
Do consumers have an emotional connection to your chosen ambassador? If yes, then there’s a greater possibility that your partnership will resonate well with your target audience.
For example, consider the recent partnership of American actress Zendaya with jeweler Bvlgari. Zendaya is well-loved and has a huge fan base, and in the words of Bvlgari’s own Jean-Christophe Babin, she epitomizes “the Generation-Z spirit” and showcases the brand’s dedication to diversity.
And so, the emotional connection that younger consumers feel to Zendaya will influence their view of the more traditional jeweler in a positive manner.
Consider the Risk Factors
Before you start making a list of your dream celebrity ambassadors, keep in mind: not every brand partnership with a celebrity ambassador will be a success. Stars don’t always strengthen advertising campaigns. In fact, they sometimes even have a negative impact.
In these hyper-connected digital times, famous personalities are often in consistent contact with fans — but also with “haters”. While, in some ways, this increases the potential of success for a celebrity endorsement — due to the enormous media echo, it also increases the risk involved.
Therefore, it’s important to take different risk factors into account before embarking on a brand ambassador campaign.
Scandals and Misconduct
Keep in mind: celebrities who are involved in scandals, or behave questionably in public, can drag a company down with them and will often result in negative press coverage.
For example, back in the early 2000s, Kate Moss signed numerous high-profile advertising deals — with brands like Burberry or Chanel. However, she lost all major advertising deals after her cocaine addiction was revealed and a scandal ensued. Moss only managed to win back advertising partners years later after a successful stint in rehab.
Lack of Brand Fit
If the celebrity and the product do not match, their endorsement can seem to be out of place and is more likely to attract ridicule than impress consumers.
For example, consider the partnership between the legendary Ozzy Osbourne and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! from 2006. While the ad was quirky and entertaining, the mash-up made no sense for brand fit. Osbourne is known for his larger-than-life antics and distinctive voice — neither of which make much sense for selling fake butter.
When a celebrity brand ambassador chooses to draw attention to themselves instead of the product — thus overshadowing it — viewers end up remembering the celebrity, not the brand.
Therefore, it’s important to find a brand ambassador that understands their role and the importance of centering your brand.
Conflict of Interest
When searching for the perfect brand ambassador, you also need to consider their current and former endorsements. When celebrities promote multiple brands — especially those with opposing values — it can sew distrust among potential consumers.
Therefore, you need to make sure your chosen ambassador doesn’t have any conflicts of interest before signing them.
Additionally, make sure you have the necessary resources and know-how available, as well as a crisis plan in place — that way, if you need to react immediately to a possible scandal of your ambassador’s making, you’re ready.
For many big-name brands, it’s no longer possible to imagine their brand strategies without celebrities involved. However, before jumping on the “celebrity brand ambassador” train, it’s important that you consider the idea carefully. And if you do choose to try this approach, minimize potential risks by formulating realistic KPIs and building a goal-oriented communication strategy.
Remember, celebrity star power alone will not make a product, collection, or brand a sales hit. In order for a celebrity endorsement to achieve the desired effect, multiple variables must be accounted for. Plus, successful brand ambassadors are usually hired for longer periods, allowing brands to build up their awareness over time.
Therefore, the relationship between brands and their celebrity ambassadors is characterized by trust, transparency, shared values, and open communication. Only then can the cooperation truly become a success.