Many companies hire celebrity spokespeople or athletes to pitch their brands, through media interviews, appearances, advertising, etc. In our celebrity-obsessed culture, celebrities can bring huge amounts of attention to your brand, because access to them opens many new doors to building awareness. There are obviously advantages to having a celebrity spokesperson, but also some risks.
Most of the companies who sign on celebrity spokespeople are larger, because the cost of hiring a celebrity can be extremely high. The more popular and well-known the celebrity, the higher the cost. To justify these high costs, the potential revenue must be even higher, which usually means large volume sales – usually the purview of a bigger company. Sometimes a celebrity will agree to become a spokesperson for little or no money, if he/she believes in the brand, and if he/she is given equity in the company. Brands like ProActiv have used this tactic to their advantage.
Sometimes hiring a celebrity can be a risky strategy. For example, if the celebrity you’ve hired gets embroiled in a scandal, e.g. Paula Deen making racial comments or Tiger Woods involved in a salacious affair, this can reflect badly on your brand as well. Or if your company is selling a weight loss product, and your celebrity suddenly gains 25 pounds, this will also reflect badly.
If your chosen celebrity spokesperson is simultaneously pitching brands for three other companies, it is less likely that he/she will be able to talk about your brand in a media interview, and the impact of seeing that celebrity will be less associated with your brand. Also, if the celebrity is seen as “selling out,” by pitching too many brands, association with that celebrity can also be tarnished.
There are some ways to reduce some of these risks or costs. For example:
- Do your research. Make sure the celebrity is stable and does not have a history of causing trouble (e.g. Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, etc.).
- Put terms into the contract to avoid trouble. For example, the contract can be terminated if the celebrity misbehaves or if they gain weight (if you have a weight loss product).
- To reduce costs, find a celebrity that has not worked in a while and is not at the prime of their career, but is still well-known. He/she will likely be less expensive and more willing to take on a spokesperson role.
- Consider using a credible third-party spokesperson that is not a celebrity, if appropriate. For example, a doctor or an author or another type of expert may be even more effective than a celebrity from a credibility perspective. This also reduces costs and risks substantially.