The practice of brands being endorsed by people who can make an impact on the target audience was probably one of the simplest yet most profitable ideas ever to sprout. It took the custom of building brands around businesses to a whole new dimension.
Brand endorsements, as a concept, is the product of simple observations from daily life where people make purchase decisions based on the preferences of friends and family that influence them. Now, if you look at it from an entrepreneur’s perspective, you want to maximize the impact you make on your audience with minimum resources used. So, instead of keeping existing customers happy through your excellent customer care, crossing your fingers in hopes of them becoming advocates for your brand, and impacting only a small group of family and friends, zoom out. Try to find something, or perhaps someone, mutually loved by your target group and let them convince your audience for you.
CONVENTIONAL BRAND ENDORSEMENTS
Actors, sportspersons, musicians, artists, content creators, and anyone who unlocks a mass followership because of their work are highly likely to get their supporters & fans interested in your brand. A product that a celebrity uses or a place they like going automatically gets added to the wish list of their fans and influence their buying decisions.
Let us look at a few examples of how Celebrities and Brands collaborate to capture significant chunks of market share through brand endorsements:
1. Deepika Padukone & Louis Vuitton: Over the years, this Indian actor’s career graph saw incredibly stable growth, from within Bollywood to without, finally assigning her as one of the most sophisticated and quality actors. Her confident disposition made her the right match for Louis Vuitton, and she was announced as their Global Brand Ambassador in May 2022. She famously signed another deal with the luxury brand Cartier just this October. The fact that Padukone is sought after by luxury brands talks to lengths about her as an individual brand herself.
2. Kardashians, Jenners & Calvin Klein: The Kardashian & Jenner family name has rather become a brand name in itself, and they have broken the internet too many times to establish the fact that they are one of the most influential families all over the world. Everyone wants to see what the Kardashians do. How Calvin Klein used this family’s branding to their benefit was by running a campaign called “Our Family #MyCalvins”. It targeted young girls, older women, and even pregnant women, as Khloe Kardashian’s pregnancy was the perfect timing for them to do this shoot. It also appealed to women post-partum as Kylie Jenner modelled for their shoot just a few months after delivering her daughter in 2018.
3. BTS & Coca-Cola: The boy band with the most extensive fan base in the world and the beverage company with the broadest target group in the world sounds like a good match. Doesn’t it? Coca-Cola placed their bets on BTS for their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign and has surfed the wave comfortably since BTS broke records in 2020. From donating millions to charities that BTS supports to spending millions on BTS-themed Coca-Cola cans and bottles, the BTS Army will do anything that makes them feel even the slightest association with the band.
RAISING THE STAKES
There are also cases of associations where the celebrities representing a brand are so passionate about the brand that they get personally invested in the business. Following are some examples of celebrity themed merchandise or celebrities holding stakes in a company and earning royalties out of the synergies:
1. Cristiano Ronaldo & Nike: It makes the most sense for an athleisure fashion brand to seal the deal with a sports icon. Nike was lucky enough to land a partnership with the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo in the early days because Nike worked hard to retain that association and how. Ronaldo has his own line of merchandise under the CR7 branding and Nike came up with an entire vertical of products with the Nike CR7 collaboration, apart from using the celebrity for general endorsement tools and platforms, and their sales team was the happiest about this idea. It couldn’t be easier to sell a sports shoe than to put Ronaldo’s name on it. People see Ronaldo on it; and it sells.
2. George Clooney & Casamigos: Clooney started this company in 2013 with a friend, Rande Gerber, making it clear that it wasn’t an initiative with the idea of making money behind it but producing good quality but affordable Tequila. They claim the company started off because of Clooney and Gerber’s frequent binging on alcohol together. was not just the founder but also this mega star who had all the eyeballs and platforms to sell his product. However, Clooney in 2018 they sold the majority of equity of Casamigos to Diaego (another beverage company) for a whopping $1billion. One of the assets of the firm that didn’t sell was the goodwill and status of Clooney, who continues to be the ambassador for the Tequila company.
3. 50 Cent & Glacéau: 50 Cent was probably the first celebrity in the West who started getting personally invested in the brands he would endorse, and Glacéau was one of them. He was approached to support a Vitamin water being launched by the brand, and instead of accepting a fee for his endorsement, he demanded a 10% stake that he got. The brand optimized all the representation it could from the rapper until Coca-Cola bought the company in 2007 for $4.1 billion, and his share turned out to be $100 million.
4. Ryan Reynolds & Aviation Gin: The Deadpool actor is famous for his quick wits and the fun he brings to the dullest rooms. This persona was what the team at Aviation American Gin found fit for endorsing their product, and indeed it was. From making hilarious videos of curating recipes for refreshing cocktails with Aviation Gin to name-dropping the brand in talk shows, Reynolds does it all and represents the brand the best. The association was so successful, and Reynolds felt so invested in the brand and the product that he went on to buy stakes of significant ownership in the company and the brand’s endorsement became much more authentic.
THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING A MEDIA PERSONALITY
By now, we understand everything a public figure does is scrutinized and torn to bits. For this very reason, brands want to try their hardest to work with amicable and largely loved personalities. In most cases, they avoid working with people who are controversial and land in a lot of trouble; if that means cancelling contracts mid-way, that happens too.
Kanye West & Adidas: Now there used to be a time when Kanye West (now recognized as Ye) was loved by people for his music and was steadily attracting a fan base for himself around the same time when social media started gaining momentum. But because of the innumerable casual, controversial, and irresponsible remarks he went on to make about people, communities, and brands, fighting publicly with management, he ended up landing in trouble and losing several endorsement deals. In a recent incident, Ye wore clothing with “White Lives Matter” written all across, and the Adidas team terminated the partnership soon after the rapper made the remarks stating their policies against any form of hate speech and tolerating antisemitism. The rapper issued a public apology which he does rather frequently because of all the trouble he lands into, but the only question the audiences had in mind was, what took Adidas so long?
Johnny Depp & Disney: Above was an example of a good decision made by the brand strategically because of the extended behaviour of Ye over time. However, it is safe to say that the decision of Disney to drop Depp from the million-dollar ‘Pirates of The Caribbean’ franchise, in the backdrop on unproven allegations made against the actor by his ex-wife was a hasty and unfortunate call. After the public proceedings of Amber Heard’s and Depp’s divorce case, it was clear that Depp came out of the scenario much more loved and sympathized for. On top of winning the case, Depp also admitted that he would never want to work with the brand again for even an exorbitant amount of money.
So, when brands invest in collaborations with celebrities, they want to be visible to audiences and earn the trust of target groups. It has been observed that young consumers’ buying intention is mainly influenced by the celebrity-brand congruence and attitude toward the brand, which further affects their behavioural loyalty for actual repurchase intention and positive word of mouth. Therefore, who you’re associated with as a brand speaks volumes about the product or services the consumer will expect from you and the trust, they place in you.
Mallika Dhupar is an Account Manager with WeYou Partners and specializes in brand strategy and positioning.