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By Ross Thompson
From long-term associations and the diva mentality to hype value and mutual agreements, Ross Thompson explores the realm of sourcing celebrity talent and how you can navigate this complex process.
“The customer’s perception of these ‘stars’ can evolve quickly (up and down!) depending on many factors… It can often feel like more of a bet than a traditional purchase, but you should think of it as a calculated long-term investment”
Throughout my years of working in procurement I’ve been involved in some great ad campaigns fronted by some of the biggest A-list celebrities. It really is a bit of a who’s who; Melanie Sykes to Mylie Cyrus – Brad Pitt to David Beckham – Al Pacino to Snoop Dog!
In sourcing some of these ‘stars’, procurement have been kept very much at arm’s length – in others we have been integral to the planning and negotiation of the deal. But in almost all of these projects, the first question on the lips of the CMO’s and marketing directors has been, who?
All good questions, but not necessarily the right questions – or at least not the first question!
Most of the companies working with these ‘stars’ are well known regional or global brands and as such they have some of the best marketing brains around providing exceptional strategy, planning and media tactics to execute some breathtaking advertising. However, when it comes to the talent selection the emotion and excitement (the magic!) overtakes any logic and in my experience all too often ‘the who’ starts to change the strategy. You might call it, the tail wagging the dog!
But there is another way. As with all sourcing activities, it is about asking the right questions at the right time and putting a process in place to enable the right decisions to be made.
Buying talent is unique, it’s not like buying production or even creative services.
Part 1. Detailed below are some useful observations that may help:
‘Long-term brand association’
The contractual commitment for a ‘star’ or brand ambassador often starts with a 3yr / 5yr initial agreement, but often with the potential for extensions if successful. Some can stretch into lifetime associations (even when you don’t want them to!) so the importance of getting it right can be critical for a brand.
The customer’s perception of these ‘stars’ can evolve quickly (up and down!) depending on many factors including; a new movie, no. 1 single, sports success, etc. It can often feel like more of a bet than a traditional purchase, but you should think of it as a calculated long-term investment.
‘Do they want to work with you?’
The difference in the cost of a ‘star’ who wants to work on your brand versus those who don’t, can be significant. Matching someone who is already an advocate or user of your product can really help. But also think about how you can persuade them; what can they learn from you? They may have aspirations to launch their own drinks/beauty products in the future and may be open to accept a lower fee for an opportunity to learn more about the industry.
‘The diva mentality’
The nature of a star’s personality often means they have high aspirations and self-confidence! This can make it difficult when trying to group ‘stars’ together in your planning. You may turn up at the negotiating table with an idea of who the comparable ‘stars’ might be (i.e. you’ve clustered them as a rising ‘star’) for them to insist that they are, or have the potential to be an icon within the timeframe of your contract.
‘Don’t be overly influenced by social media’
Social media followings are heavily skewed to the younger ‘stars’. Factor in this reach and engagement, but don’t forget the more established but older ‘stars’ may have greater resonance with your target audience. This is particularly important when evaluating influencers:
It’s now common for the ‘stars’ to have many brand associations. Ask whether their other brand associations (and in some instances their own brands!) compliment yours? Can you be sure that they will not compete with you in the future?
‘Local vs. Global’
Will a single global ‘star’ be more effective than spreading your budget wider across regional ‘stars’? Will a global ‘star’ be happy to be replaced in the ads of some markets if this makes sense for your brand? Does the ‘star’ have the same appeal in your key markets?
Part 2. So, how can you improve the chances of getting it right when sourcing talent?
1) Be clear on your marketing objectives and ensure the talent complements this on every level.
2) Define an operating process that works for your needs with clear roles and responsibilities
3) Appoint a good Talent Partner to support you.
“Ross and I worked closely to review the Talent and Production categories at Coty Inc. and made significant headway in improving the approach to Talent sourcing. Specifically, agreeing clear roles and responsibilities and setting the right budgets parameters is now helping us engage with Brand and Finance teams in the Strategic Planning phase and adding significant value in our appointment of Talent”. Daniel Taboada – Procurement Global Category Leader: Content, Coty Inc.
So, when sourcing ‘stars’ to elevate your brand – build the right project team, establish a way of working and ask the right questions. This will give you the opportunity to select the right talent and the foundation to establish a strong and memorable partnership that gets the attention of the audience but will also deliver against your business objectives.
Ross Thompson is Founder and Managing Partner at Proctimise.