We believe that bringing brands, content, celebrities and influencers together makes storytelling more meaningful and impactful.
We had a call recently where a brand was absolutely not happy with their last celebrity brand agency partner. Why? Because that individual did not provide enough information on how the actual process of getting a celebrity on board to work with their brand, and the brand was left confused by how they didn't end up with their chosen celebrity as a partner.
And you know what? It is confusing. And it’s a common theme we come across in conversations, and just one of the reasons we've spent a lot of time (and money) in building out a core differentiator of our agency to be that of brand education. Because working with celebrities and influencers is confusing. It's just not straightforward. There is no media rate chart that everyone follows, no true science to the partnership deals that occur. Celebrities are trying to make the most money possible, and brands are trying to get the most for their money. In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares 12 steps to get celebrities to work with your brand, and the reason why it can take so long.
Why Equity Is Never The Answer: The Risk
Many brand owners and marketers come to us with the plan of giving away a percentage of their company in order to better leverage a celebrity to come on board and be a spokesperson for a brand campaign, while providing less of a cash payment upfront.
Well... that's not working out so well anymore. Celebrities and their management teams are inundated with requests for the celebrity to jump on board a brand and work for equity. Our agency alone gets calls every single week with brands wanting to explore that angle. And it just doesn't work out.
Why? Well because for one, the management team of the celebrity needs to be paid for brokering the deal. They want a cash deal, where they get commission. These partnerships can be a massive time suck of going back and forth, and then dealing with contracts, and ultimately the actual activation itself. The celebrity certainly isn't going to reach into their own pocket and pay their management team. Nope. What happens is a percentage of the overall deal comes from the brand's payment. And in some cases, is asked to be on top of the celebrity's payment.
And then of course, even if the celebrity thinks your brand rocks and is awesome, there is just no guarantee that the brand will be successful. So here is the celebrity, loaning their image and name, and even possibly their time, which is all they have to offer of themselves... with not sure thing of ever getting paid, and needing to wait for the brand to become a success. But what if the brand's marketing department or sales department drops the ball. What if their fulfillment center or IT department has a big snafu that stops sales from happening or orders from being shipped. What if the brand isn't actually funded well enough to guarantee that it will see year 3, when the equity payoff plan actually truly starts? That is all outside the celebrity's control - and why should they take that risk?
Why Equity Is Never The Answer: Don't Give A Stranger Your Baby
And secondly? It's a really really horrible idea for a brand.
Why would you want to give up a big percentage of your company to someone you don't know, who might not actually do all the amazing marketing things you think they will do just because they are a proud owner of your brand! Brands make employees wait FOREVER to work and work and work to earn the right to have percentages of companies, if ever. This brand is likely your baby. Don't give it away. If you are going to work with a celebrity on an equity stake, make them work for it, and make that contract ironclad. Put in stepping stones along the way to get more equity and don't provide it all up front. Too many brands get burned from that.
Finding The Right Celebrity Influencer...
Ok, back to my topic of working with a celebrity. Look, there are A LOT of hours that go into creating a celebrity partnership. It has nothing to do with just picking up the phone and inking a deal on the spot. Yes, you have to have relationships in the industry. Those open the doors. But they don't guarantee any sure thing.
The First Three Steps To Getting A Celebrity To Work With Your Brand
How it actually works is like this...
#1 Our team first dives in to learn and build out an overview of the brand, as we are going to need to present it to the celebrities and their management teams we do outreach to. It needs to be a polished presentation, or at least a great bulleted overview of the brand and what the campaign is looking for.
A lot of times, it means crafting detailed explanations on who the brand is, the uniqueness, the sell-in of the "why" the celebrity will benefit from the partnership. You get one shot at this, make it something people understand and buy in to.
#2 As part of that deep dive, we build out a strategy plan, understanding the budget and goals the brand has for their celebrity partnership.
#3 Along the way as we build out the brand brief, we may find that the brand needs to shore up some of its own marketing, as the celebrity's team is going to first check out the brand's website, then their social media sites to learn more about the brand.
A shoddy site that isn't professionally set up and doesn't have a look of current day "cool" is going to harm the process of getting a celebrity on board. The celebrity really will want to work with a brand partner that is up to date, cutting edge and polished. Just as the celebrity reflects on the brand, how the brand markets itself reflects on the celebrity's brand. A bad website will result in less celebrity buy-in. Which means we often find ourselves then helping guide a website transition or a social media build out plan before we launch into the celebrity or influencer outreach. Think of it this way too – once you spend those big bucks to get a celebrity on board, you want to make sure those consumer eyeballs you are trying to attract think your website and social media is pretty cool too – and those are things you can control now, before you start your celebrity reach out.
The Second Three Steps To Getting A Celebrity To Work With Your Brand
#4 We will then research individuals that we feel are on target to the brand. We use a number of expensive subscription software programs to pull this data together and enter it into our own database. We also do a lot of digging on our own looking for hidden gems that might be in hiding, as well as go through our cheat sheets of who reps who - which is always a moving playing field.
#5 We then reach out and through the celebrity's management teams find out rough ranges of ballpark pricing. And when I say rough, I mean rough. The manager may think they have it figured out, but there are so many people who may chime in - from lawyers to agents to even unofficial mother's-who-want-to-be-managers, that there is not a science to it. We might work with their talent agent, their manager or their PR team, or a friend. It all depends on the celebrity. Many celebrities have more than one person to work with, so in those cases we try to determine who will have the most interest in the program we are bringing to the table.
#6 We compile and update that celebrity's information, and then reach out to the brand's management team to be presented for a ‘yes, interested in moving forward with an offer' or a 'no, not on brand'. Once we go through this several times, we should be developing a better sense of what makes the brand's marketing team member get excited, and what type of celebrities they don't typically like so we can better source potential partners. And for those 'yes's'...
The Third Three Steps To Getting A Celebrity To Work With Your Brand
#7 We then go back to the celebrity's management team with a formal written offer. This is a deal-binding offer. We make the offer, you can't take it back if they accept. Not only is it poor protocol if you did... it is a verbally binding agreement with legal ramifications.
#8 The management team member will only then actually talk to their client, who very often might say ‘not interested’ or ‘not enough money.’ Or they may say ‘yes’. And this is where brands are often dumbfounded by other celebrity brand agents they have worked with. I mean after all... the celebrity was presented to them, with a price range, so that celebrity must have been consulted, right? Why would they say no now? Well... because they never heard of the deal until now. Think of how many thousands of conversations an agent or manager has that lead to nothing. That manager isn't going to want to bring dud deals to their client where a formal offer is never going to be made. So they guesstimate what that cost might be, and they do so maybe a little lower than they sometimes should so they can get the offer in from the brand, who might be open to a little wiggle room.
#9 If it’s about the money, we have more conversations with the brand's marketing team about whether or not their team wants to raise the offer. We always try to have wiggle room to work within as well. We don't want to be the kid running back to mom asking for permission for a slight allowance increase. It pretty much hurts the negotiation power.
Knowing a wide range from the very beginning of what monetary range is possible from you is the best way we can quickly move the conversation forward. We try to have a max budget that we can work within so that we have room to negotiate.
The Fourth Three Steps To Getting A Celebrity To Work With Your Brand
#10 Once the celebrity has agreed to the terms of what we have requested, we create a detailed contract, and that is sent over for review by their team, and red lined. And that contract may go back and forth numerous times, to various lawyers for review before it is actually signed.
#11 Oh, and once it is signed? Expect to make a payment of 1/3 to 1/2 of the deal upfront, before work commences. Celebrities don't show up for events or write posts, or get in the limo to go to the photo shoot until some money has been transferred into their accounts. They too have been burned before...
#12 And then… once the signature is secured, some money has exchanged hands then we FINALLY move forward with the partnership activation. Which based on the celebrity's schedule, can sometimes be not quite as fast as a brand might like. A lot of that factors into the requests of the celebrity, and how much is needed from them. Bigger ask, longer time table to get it done.
And Then... Success!
As you can see, it’s not the easiest process, and it requires a lot of going back and forth. 90% percent of the time the brand's top five favorites - and maybe even more - aren't going to work out. Which means a lot of names we may present are not going to be ultimately interested potentially. Which is a drag, but you really do want to wait to find a celebrity that really is open to working with your brand, and not pulled into the deal kicking and screaming.
About That Pricing - Wow It's High
Every celebrity has different wants and needs, and values themselves differently based on what might be going on in their lives at that very moment. There may be another brand – in a completely different category – that has made an offer that is really too high, and made that celebrity feel they can get a lot more money from all other brands.
Or that celebrity might just be the hottest thing since sliced bread - they think - because there is a big movie deal around the corner that you don't even know about yet because it hasn’t been talked about outside Hollywood. It’s a game that requires a lot of detective work, follow up and follow through.
And those lower level celebrities? They can have higher price tags too. Regardless, the fees that are quotes are always going to be higher than what you expect. That's about the only thing you can truly count on when working with celebrities.
Ready to Start Working With Celebrities?
So your next step? Determine the desired end result and then build the campaign plan backwards to best develop a comprehensive plan that will be a surefire win. The easiest way to oversee and activate any celebrity partnership is to hire a seasoned entertainment marketing agency with the experience to build a solid campaign. Working with a company that has experience in this space will provide the desired end results.
And to get you started along your way to success... check out these blogs our team wrote:
And watch our short webinar to learn Hollywood insider tricks to create better influencer and celebrity partnerships. While you here, be sure to check out our blog blog.hollywoodbranded.com that has hundreds more articles to help you become a better marketer and insights on influencer and content strategy.
Topics: Celebrity Partnership
Stacy Jones, Hollywood Branded's founder and CEO, has over twenty six years of leadership experience building global entertainment branding campaigns for top Fortune 500 companies and hundreds of brands. Her career started after receiving her BFA in Theater Production & Scenic Design from the University of Arizona. Acknowledged as an expert in the field, she has appeared on CNN and MSNBC; spoken at conferences around the globe from Germany to Beijing; and has been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, Financial Times, The Economist, Brandweek, Advertising Age, Variety, B&C and Mediaweek amongst others. Originally from Texas, you will still hear her ya’ll as she gathers the team for strategy planning sessions. Like all true entrepreneurs, Stacy is an adventurer at her core – having sky dived, hang glided off bi-planes, swam with crocs while rafting the Zambezi in Africa, photographed grizzly bears in Alaska, trekked Mayan ruins in Belize, explored the ocean as an avid scuba diver, and who loves owning an advertising agency where she swims with a different type of Hollywood shark on a daily basis.