Movie studios aren’t the only businesses that benefit from a post-Academy Awards bump. Companies can take advantage of the fame and recognition celebrities and social media influencers provide by using or being seen with certain products. It’s not as hard as you might think to get your goods into the hands of celebrities and in front of their followers. You just have to know where to start.
Getting a celebrity endorsement for your product can be an effective way to increase brand visibility and credibility. When a star uses or endorses a product, it can create a sense of desirability and trust among their fan base, translating into increased sales and brand loyalty.
Even back in 2012, before Instagram became a favorite place for celebrities to flaunt their possessions and influence fans, a study published in the Journal of Advertising Research found that a company can experience an average 4 percent increase in sales by leveraging celebrity endorsements. More than a decade later, that number is likely much higher.
“Consumers are proven to follow the trends of celebrities and embrace in their own lives the products that those they covet and admire use,” said Stacy Jones, founder and CEO of Hollywood Branded, a marketing group that facilitates “pop culture partnerships.” “A celebrity seen with your brand allows you a presence that can impact your sales and increase consumer awareness of your brand.”
That exposure can be a huge stepping stone toward influencing consumers to buy your products, but getting that exposure is a challenge for many companies. If you want to get your products into the hands of celebrities and hopefully score an endorsement, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
To beat the odds and break down the barriers often separating stars from Average Joes, Jones, who specializes in getting products to celebrities, recommends business owners have a clear agenda when reaching out to celebrities.
“The first thing you need to do is figure out what you want from giving a celebrity your product,” she said. “If you blindly send your product to a celebrity, the likelihood is that they will never see it — and their assistant or someone else’s assistant will end up with your product in their home instead.”
Jones said, “Keep reasonable expectations in mind with what you hope to obtain through a gift of your brand. You may feel that your product is the absolute best in the world and, while it may be, the celebrity gifted may not fully be on the same page.”
When pitching a star, frame the conversation as if you’re partnering with the celebrity and solving one of their issues instead of asking for exposure.
To get your products in the hands of celebrities, you’ll often need to send them over for free. Work with your team to determine how many products you will ship out for free and how that will fit into your marketing budget. Regardless of the outcome, stick to an amount you’re comfortable with unless it’s absolutely necessary to go over it.
When researching which celebrities and influencers to reach out to, consider which ones have a following similar to your target audience. If you’re marketing your products toward a younger teenage demographic, reach out to viral social media stars. If you’re trying to target young men, look into contacting athletes. Alternatively, when targeting older demographics, consider celebrities who have been around for a while and retained their star power. Find stars who maximize the chance of reaching your target audience instead of blindly sending out products to an unrefined pool of recipients.
While many high-profile people seem easily accessible today due to the internet, finding the best way to contact them can be difficult. For some, the best way to reach them may be through their agent; for others, a direct email or message on social media can work. Research before sending out queries to determine which contact method has the best success rate.
According to Jones, working with a talent agency is the ideal way to set your business up to take advantage of a celebrity partnership. These agencies already have significant relationships with celebrities and, if you get them on board, it can be easier for the agency’s clients to follow suit. Such a relationship can earn exposure for your business in various ways, such as having a celebrity tweet about your product or throwing a launch party where your product is seen with the stars in attendance.
Influencer Marketing Hub conducted a survey in which 82 percent of participants said they’d be budgeting for influencer marketing in 2023, with more than 65 percent planning to increase that financial commitment over the following year. Such data indicates how vital influencer relationships are today. However, just because a celebrity-driven marketing strategy works for one business doesn’t mean it will work for yours.
Having the right celebrity for your marketing campaign is crucial. You want to make sure they share your brand’s values and connect with your target audience authentically. These key elements can make all the difference when it comes to conveying your brand’s message effectively through the endorsement.
Here are some noteworthy examples of successful partnerships — not all of them intentional.
Our Place is a company that offers a range of trendy and aesthetically pleasing kitchen cookware. In 2022, the company collaborated with Selena Gomez to launch exclusive color options for its products. Gomez, who is passionate about cooking and even has her own cooking show, wanted to incorporate her Mexican roots into the project, creating the “Rosa” and “Azul” cookware. The launch of this collaboration showcased Selena using various Our Place cookware, sharing food and expressing her love for cooking and the brand.
This partnership didn’t come off as an inauthentic money grab for either side but rather as an example of smart teamwork. Our Place found a celebrity partner known for being a foodie and Gomez found a company willing to incorporate her heritage, which she has placed increased importance on over the years. The endorsement deal also included a profit-driven donation to Gomez’s Rare Impact Fund, which seeks to expand mental health resources.
As part of the campaign, which Gomez shared on her Instagram page, Our Place also partnered with influencers by sending them the collection to unbox, cook with and showcase to their followers. Our Place chose wisely with whom to share its new product line and got plenty of press attention in the process, with media outlets like Good Morning America, Rolling Stone and USA Today, among many others, reporting about it.
One method of getting products into the hands of celebrities that’s lasted for a few decades now is the Oscars swag bag — the product-filled bag of goodies given to stars involved with the Academy Awards. Pennsylvania-based makeup boutique Kiss and Makeup had already outgrown one retail location in its short two-year existence when a swag bag opportunity changed everything.
“I got a call one night from a woman who I thought was just telling me all these things,” said Lisa Di Caprio, co-founder of Kiss and Makeup and the cosmetics line darci by Di Caprio. “So I didn’t think much of it, but then I got a call back. She asked me if I was interested in being involved as one of 40 products in the Oscars swag bag. At that point, I said, ‘Who are you? Can you provide some references?’ She did, and I checked it out, then passed out on the floor.”
The call was from a marketing representative at Distinctive Assets, the company responsible for putting together gift bags for award shows like the Grammy Awards, the American Music Awards and the Oscars. For Di Caprio and partner Darci Henry, how Distinctive Assets found them in the first place is even more remarkable.
“Luckily, we have some good schools in Philly that we were able to get some interns from,” Di Caprio said. “My creative designer was having press releases sent out through the interns that I would approve and send out. We got picked up, unknown to us, through someone who had seen us on PRWeb.” [Learn how to create a successful internship program.]
Thanks to that ingenuity, the pair shipped 30 gift bags included in the 2015 “Everybody Wins at the Oscars” gift bag presented to the runners-up in the five major categories: Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Di Caprio and Henry didn’t even have to wait for the Oscars to experience the benefits of being included in the gift bag. Getting into the bag cost the small business a minimal investment of a few thousand dollars, but the exposure was invaluable.
“We knew this was an opportunity that may never come around again,” Di Caprio said. “It was destiny knocking on our door. We have had a huge increase in local media attention, radio, TV and print. We have also increased sales, not only in our brush cleaner but in all cosmetic sales. We also had a lot of networking opportunities we would not have had otherwise, not to mention a lot of local Philly pride.”
A beauty-focused business teaming up with the Oscars makes perfect sense: Both brands celebrate glitz and glam, making the partnership feel organic and targeted at the right audience — in this case, stars who get all dolled up for award shows and may be looking for the next great beauty product. Unsurprisingly, for the 2023 Academy Awards, Distinctive Assets put together swag bags that again incorporated makeup products. The company even welcomes businesses that would like to be considered for future inclusion to submit samples.
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While some companies go out of their way to give products to the rich and famous, others get lucky. That was the case for Marcus Woolcott and Claire Theobald, the owners of New York boutique Beatrix. The high-end backpacks, water bottles and lunch boxes that the pair designs have been seen on the arms of several high-profile celebrity moms, including Katie Holmes, Halle Berry, Meg Ryan and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
“The first celebrity we knew of who used our products was Marcia Cross when we were still called Dante Beatrix [and] when Desperate Housewives was at its peak,” Theobald said. “She was photographed with a diaper bag and it was coincidental. That was when we sent things to celebrities, but she was seen with another one of our bags that we didn’t send her. That was the first and last time we mailed out our stuff to celebrities.” [See our small business guide to direct mail.]
While Cross was seen with a Dante Beatrix diaper bag, Liv Tyler was the first celebrity seen carrying a Beatrix New York product. Even though the company wasn’t actively sending products to celebrities, the unintentional support of various stars has helped the small business with just three employees experience surprising growth in the past few years.
“For us, it is not like Halle Berry was seen with our monkey lunchbox and then 10,000 orders came in the next day,” Theobald said. “It was more of a slow trajectory over time.”
Today, Beatrix products are featured in stores in 30 states and 32 countries worldwide. Theobald and Woolcott suspect that the expansion of the brand to those stores, notably many retailers in Hollywood, is how the company has become a favorite of many celebrity moms.
Growth has not only come domestically, though. At the time they spoke to Business News Daily, Beatrix New York’s international sales were expected to account for 40 to 50 percent of overall sales, according to Theobald. The secret behind this growth is not a surprise to the business partners.
“It has been very helpful to have celebrities giving us their accidental backing,” Woolcott said. “There was never a spike in sales, but I think it has become a proof point. Buyers overseas and buyers in America are looking for some kind of vote of confidence in a brand. When they see a celebrity who is able to buy anything they want carrying a certain product, they think that it must be good and cool — especially since they are style-makers.”
In this case, the implicit endorsements Woolcott and Theobald received weren’t the result of some strategic partnership but rather quite accidental. They didn’t set up a formal relationship, like Our Place and Gomez, and they didn’t directly give away their products like Kiss and Makeup at the Oscars. Instead, they were able to seize on organic attention sparked by stars using Beatrix products entirely on their own.
While an arrangement like Gomez’s likely led to direct sales for Our Place, the Beatrix founders enjoyed a less direct but likely longer-lasting benefit: merchandise partnerships with various stores, getting their lines in front of shoppers in stores across the globe for an extended period of time.
Celebrities seen with your products may not directly lead to a huge boost in sales, but this exposure will create brand awareness that legitimizes your company.
Celebrity endorsements can be a valuable tool to enhance your marketing initiatives, regardless of the size of your business. Nevertheless, it is vital to establish a clear vision and identify your target audience before entering into any agreements. Ultimately, staying true to your brand is imperative regardless of the partnerships you seek. By prioritizing these principles, your brand can appeal to those who share similar values.
It’s also critical to track the return on investment of any celebrity endorsements you achieve. If you’re not seeing an uptick in brand awareness, sales and overall revenue, the influencing world might not be right for your business — or you need to pick a different influencer. Learn how to measure success when working with influencers.
Elizabeth Veras and David Mielach contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.