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The dos and don’ts of celeb endorsement deals


By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

May 9, 2024 | 6 min read

Talent experts share their secrets for creating a successful celebrity brand deal.

Kahlua billboard featuring Salma Hayek

Mexican actress Salma Hayek fronts Kahlua campaign / Wieden + Kennedy

Celebrity endorsement deals can make or break a brand. Take Nespresso and George Clooney or Haig Club and David Beckham. These brands are synonymous with their celebrity backer. But there is also a lot that can go wrong with such big budgets at stake.

So, what should brands know and do before entering into the world of celeb endorsement?

Why pay for a celebrity endorsement?

Mick Carter, senior vice-president of international operations at Omnicom agency Platinum Rye/The Marketing Arm, says: “With the proliferation of media, marketing clutter and consumer tune-out, talent endorsers can help products stand out from the competition.”

Having been instrumental in securing Salma Hayek Pinault for what recently became an award-winning Wieden+Kennedy Kahlúa campaign, as well as Rowan Atkinson for Snickers, Carter gives his view on why brands should work with celebrities.

Credibility and trustworthiness: “If a talent is seen to be trusted and believable, people tend to think the goods or services being endorsed have those same qualities.”

Exposure and association: “The measurable exposure of an ad compared to that with no talent is significant. Not only is a talent endorser seen in the actual product or brand advertisement, but each time they are seen outside of that endorsement can be associated with the specific goods or services they endorse, resulting in free exposure.”

Excitement: “Society is naturally drawn to energy and excitement. Talent is seen doing things every day that many of us dream of doing and that we find exciting and appealing.”

Reinvigoration: “By simply featuring a talent endorser, the life of an advertising campaign can be extended and given new life. Spending money on a talent endorser can become much more efficient and cost-effective, instead of creating an entirely new advertising campaign.”

Attracting new audiences: “By featuring a talent endorser who is specifically popular and likable to a certain demographic, the campaign naturally reaches a whole new audience, therefore increasing the scope of the goods or services.”

How to choose your celebrity

Selecting a celebrity requires a lot of research and data. Carter recommends using the following system to measure a celebrity.

Appeal: Measures consumer likeability of the talent.

Aspiration: Measures the degree to which consumers feel the individual has a life to which they would aspire.

Breakthrough: Indicates the degree to which consumers take notice of the individual when they appear on TV, film or print. (Breaking through the advertising clutter.)

Endorsement: Reflects the degree to which consumers identify the individual as an effective product spokesperson.

Influence: Measures the degree to which consumers believe the individual is an influence in today’s world.

Trendsetter: Measures the degree to which consumers believe the individual sets trends.

Trust: Indicates the level of confidence the consumers place in the individual’s words and image.

Tips for making an endorsement deal

Speaking at an event hosted by social and creator agency Supernova, co-founder and managing director Raf McDonnell gave five tips for making celebrity brand deals.

1. Get help from the entertainment world

“There are brands that understand and they learn and then there are brands that come in, have no idea and usually fall at the first hurdle because they don’t understand how to work with talent,” says McDonnell. “It’s a different world, it’s a different language and that’s why you need an interpreter in the middle.”

2. Be realistic about money

“Don’t waste people’s time. We probably see 95% of the opportunities disappear, we get 100 inquiries and five are real. So many times a brand comes and says, ‘We’re looking to work with the biggest talent in the world on this amazing campaign and we would love to work with Kylie Minogue,’ expecting to get it for £50,000.”

It is McDonnell’s job to filter out pitches that won’t work financially for the talent before taking it further.

3. Keep your options open

“Keep your options open; don’t just say, ‘I want Christina Aguilera,’” says McDonnell. It is ideal if you can get a good price for the talent you want and they are available, as well as good brand fit, but all three can rarely align. “There is always a compromise.” Getting just two of those outcomes is enough to make a successful deal.

“If you narrow on one person, there are some nasty agents out there who will jack the price up, so you need to keep your options open.”

4. Start the contract early

“Never believe your lawyers when they say the contract will take a couple of weeks,” McDonnell says. When the contract comes in late, the artist has the upper hand in the negotiations, he explains. Deliverables should also be discussed up front so nothing ends up in the contract that hasn’t been seen or heard of before.

McDonnell adds: “Never weave the deliverables into the contract. I prefer a set of deliverables at the end of the contract. Have the contract as a base contract and then have the deliverables – so much stuff hidden doesn’t work.”

5. Roll with the punches

There is a lot that can go wrong when working with celebrities. The financial risk is high and the talent typically has limited availability to work with brands. McDonnell tells brands: “You just have to roll with it. You have to find the solution, be able to call in favors and build trust with people so they might meet you halfway.”

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