Ask Aaron: Should we get a celebrity sponsor?
Ask Aaron: Should we get a celebrity sponsor?

Dear Aaron,

Our company is looking into hiring a celebrity sponsor. Is it a wise use of our marketing dollars?

Signed,

Stars in the Eyes

Dear SITE,

I don’t think I was the only publicist in America to breathe a sigh of relief when “The Oprah Winfrey Show” went off the air. Every clien.....

Dear Aaron,

Our company is looking into hiring a celebrity sponsor. Is it a wise use of our marketing dollars?

Signed,

Stars in the Eyes

Dear SITE,

I don’t think I was the only publicist in America to breathe a sigh of relief when “The Oprah Winfrey Show” went off the air. Every client we had in those days, when asked what their dream media placement was, answered “Oprah’s favorite things” with a resounding ring. It became a running joke in our industry. There was no other response.

But most of these clients were small to mid-sized businesses. If they were featured, would they have the bandwidth on their website to handle the traffic? Did they have multiple phone numbers to handle the call traffic or the employee support and product inventory to fulfill orders? We cautioned our clients, but we still pitched them to the show because, hey, it’s Oprah!

A few years ago I worked with my first “celebrity” sponsor. We booked him on several national television programs only to find out from his management that he wasn’t available or interested. What?  We went back to the client to ask for an explanation. They called, we waited, the producers got angry and we burned one bridge after another.

This leads me to my first recommendation. If you hire a celebrity sponsor you must have a lawyer draft the agreement and put every expectation in the contract. This includes live appearances (perhaps lay out a minimum number of appearances they are required to attend on your company’s behalf over a certain period of time), media interviews (have their management vet the media outlets that their client is willing to do before your PR agency pitches the media), and social media (list a required minimum amount of tweets, Facebook mentions, Instagram posts, etc.). Finally, make sure there is an out for your company in the contract in case the s**it hits the fan.

For example, you may remember a time when Lance Armstrong was the darling of celebrity endorsements. He was the poster boy for Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Trek Bicycle Corp, FRS, and Honey Stinger and was dropped by all of them in a hot minute after news of his doping schemes broke. Everyone talked about how he lost $150 million in career endorsement earning potential, but there was little focus on how much the companies lost or how many employees were fired from the fallout.

There is a laundry list of celebrity sponsorship gone awry.  Remember what happened with Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick?  Maybe there is a theme here.  Beware sport stars?  Nah.  Remember the controversies surrounding Paula Deen or Chris Brown, or Madonna dancing in front of burning crosses in a Pepsi commercial? Bad celebrity sponsors come from every realm.

So, my second recommendation is to take your time finding the perfect fit.

Lapizta, which makes extreme sports watches for men and women, created a band of brand “ambassadors” for their timepieces. The watches comprise a series of eight collections that represent auto racing, motorcycle racing, scuba diving, skydiving, aviation and extreme sports.

To roll out their first collections they were looking for auto racing and motorcycle racing celebrities, but the twist is many of the sport celebrities that are their ambassadors today came to them, not the other way around.

“Last spring I was in a store in Florida looking at watches and came across a display with a selection of motorsports-inspired watches,” said Corey Alexander, a 20-year-old professional motorcycle racer and a rising start recently crowned AMA Pro Supersport East Champion. “The company that made them, Lapizta, has the motto: ‘We are extreme. We are bold. We are passionate.’ I thought, ‘Hey, that fits with my brand. Maybe they need someone to represent them like myself; plus, some awesome watches on my end sounds good.’ So I contacted them through Twitter, and the next thing I know I am an ambassador of the brand and get to wear their motorcycle-inspired Accentor watches.”

A similar story happened with Lapizta’s most well-known ambassador, Helio Castroneves, a three-time Indy 500 winner.

“We were contacted by Helio’s management, saying he loved our watches wanted to meet with us and learn more,” said Mauricio Acevedo, executive vice president of Lapizta. “After he met with us, he said he wanted to be part of our brand and help us out any way he could. He found us first, and that is why it was such an easy decision for us.”

That is my third recommendation. Listen to celebrities that seek you out. They know their brand very well and can spot why your brand is good for their brand. Also, because they vetted you it is probably more likely they truly like your products and services and will use them. Nobody wants a sponsor that secretly prefers the competitor.

Finally, don’t forget that your brand is a celebrity in its own right. It has fans, followers, devotees, stalkers — well, you get the picture. Make sure not to lose sight of what gives your company its star power, and don’t hesitate to make sure the brand gets equal billing with its famous endorser.

Hope this helps, SITE, and gives you some “insight” into world of celebrity sponsorship.

Best wishes,

Aaron

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