Collaborating and partnering with celebrities is one of the fastest-growing marketing tactics and can be a great way to jumpstart or rejuvenate a brand. But as with other tactics, its success depends on a brand’s ability to align this partnership with its overall strategy, to execute company goals, and to keep up with industry changes, especially as the market continues to grow more saturated with celebrities working with and starting their own brands. This playbook accompanies Shooting Stars: Celebrity-driven brands are reaching the stratosphere. Will they come crashing back to earth?

Defining goals

The great successes in the celebrity partnership field often follow one formula: matching the right celebrity with the right product in the right market. Successful partnerships or collaborations also reflect the skill sets of both parties.   

Outlining the benefits and limitations of working with a celebrity is also crucial to a brand’s success. Partnering with a celebrity has its benefits—for example, access to the audience that comes with a celebrity—but a brand must also decide and negotiate with the celebrity about how involved he or she will be in the ideation and production process moving forward.

  • Think thoroughly about how well a celebrity aligns with the brand.
    • In what ways does the celebrity match your target customer’s interests and needs? Does the celebrity reflect the brand’s aesthetic? What about its price points? Would the celebrity use the products you offer?
    • How closely does he or she embody your mission statement? How natural is the relationship between brand and celebrity?
    • How much of a role does the celebrity want to play in your brand and its development? Does this match the level of involvement you desire from the celebrity? In what ways can he or she impact your messaging and marketing strategy?
    • With plans to strike a celebrity partnership, how much investment do you need to launch it? How much do you need to sustain it? Will you expect the celerity to contribute financially?
  • Before partnering with a celebrity, you should define what role he or she will play and how this role will evolve over time.
    • What specific goals will the celebrity help you accomplish and how deep a role should the celebrity play in your brand’s development and execution to realize these goals? How do you plan to grow the brand, and what role do you envision the celebrity playing in this development?
    • How involved do you want a celebrity to be in the brand itself? Do you want a celebrity brand, a celebrity collaboration, or would you rather bring in a celebrity brand ambassador or representative for your brand? Why or why not?
    • Why are you interested in working with a celebrity over an influencer? What are the pros and cons of each?
    • What does the ideal celebrity partner look like? What are his or her strengths, talents and weaknesses? How symbiotic do you want the partnership to be?
    • What verbiage will you use to define the partnership? How will this rhetoric convey the nature of your partnership? What words will best showcase the authenticity of the partnership?
    • How is your company identifying influencers to work with? How robust is this identification system? Are you using data and analytics to find reliant partners to work with? What are the metrics you use to judge your influencers?

Partnering and negotiating contracts

As the traditional model of spokesperson and brand ambassador fades, brands need to conceptualize what type of contract best fits their unique relationship with a celebrity and what plans they have in the long term to continue this partnership.

  • As Diageo (Cîroc) and Kendo (Fenty Beauty and Kat Von D Beauty) illustrate, the progression of a partnership depends on when in a brand’s life cycle a celebrity partnership occurs. Kendo developed its respective beauty brands with Rihanna and Kat Von D as a team, whereas Diageo reached out to Sean “Diddy” Combs to revitalize Cîroc four years after the vodka brand was founded.
    • How will the resources you have and the resources a celebrity has influence the timing and structure of a partnership?
    • What time in your brand’s lifecycle can you most effectively bring on a celebrity, depending on your goals? What are the pros and cons in entering a partnership earlier versus later?
    • How long do you want the partnership to last? If you have plans to continue a partnership long term, how can your celebrity or influencer strategy evolve over time to adapt to changing needs and preferences among your customer base while retaining authenticity in the partnership?  
  • As more celebrities move away from the spokesperson and brand ambassador model in favor of ownership or obtaining more equity in a brand, brands will have to determine what their contracts with celebrity partners look like.
    • What kind of contract do you want with your celebrity partner? How much will the celebrity carry the brand and how will you contribute to the brand’s success? How will this affect the authenticity of the partnership, and thus the success of the brand?
    • If using a more traditional model, what kind of licensing agreement do you want to sign?
    • What responsibilities are you comfortable having under this agreement? What aspects of the brand are you certain you want to control? Are there elements of the business you definitely want or need to relegate to the partner? What restrictions from your partner are you comfortable with, and where do you draw the line?
    • What will each party’s equity in the company be? How do you plan to compensate him or her? How will you manage overvaluation and compensation—a problem that can occur for a brand with a big name attached to it? How will this affect how much you control the brand’s destiny? Depending on your long-term plans to sell the brand, how will working with a celebrity change the perception of the brand to interested parties?
    • What do you expect your celebrity partner to contribute, financially speaking? How will partnering with a celebrity affect your relationship with investors?

Social media marketing

Today, a celebrity brand or collaboration has a leg up on other brands in terms of social media marketing. But working with a celebrity in this capacity has its pros and cons. Celebrities come with huge followings and can tap into their fan base to grow a high level of anticipation and excitement around products or brands. At the same time, brands have next to no control of a celebrity’s social media profile and the advertising remains non-targeted. This is a huge departure from the past, when a brand would sign off on every advertisement or commercial that included a spokesmodel, and know exactly when and where the ad would appear.

  • Think through ways a celebrity can reflect, enhance or adapt your marketing strategy?
    • What balance of traditional versus non-traditional forms of advertising is right for your brand? How much will you rely on social media to market your products? In what ways is a celebrity predisposed to working with you on this type of marketing versus traditional forms of marketing? How can he or she market your brand separately, and in ways that you cannot as a company?
    • How will the way the celebrity speaks and interacts with the brand’s audience help you accomplish your goals as a brand? Is the celebrity predisposed to connecting with your targeted demographics—ages, geographic locations, economic class, etc.?
    • Does your marketing strategy work only with a specific generation in mind? How can your strategy, including your celebrity partner, help you span multiple generations or extend your brand to new or broader audiences?
  • Social media trends show that authenticity, transparency and editorial-like campaigns are more successful than advertorials. As social media companies raise the cost of advertising on their platforms and audiences increasingly shift their attention to mobile devices and social media apps, brands will need to adapt.
    • How will you build a marketing strategy that prioritizes editorial-like ads? How can a celebrity partner help you accomplish this? If the celebrity partner does not hold equity in the brand, how will you disclose your celebrity collaboration in your marketing strategy to abide by social media companies’ regulations?
    • When promoting your brand on social media, are you best positioning your brand by using celebrity endorsements, product placement or something else?
    • If you have a product that is outside of beauty (fragrance, candles, etc.) how can you best position your advertising to appeal to audiences on visual social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube?
    • How will your marketing tactics adapt as social media platforms aim to take a larger piece of the advertising pie?