In our celebrity crazed culture, the notion of aligning your business with a famous face may seem either daunting or a “no brainer.” However, you may want to consider a few things before tapping someone with star quality to represent your organization. A celebrity can be any high-profile individual in your city, not just an A-list movie star like Tom Hanks. (Let’s be realistic: his fees are not in your budget.) An alignment describes any business partnership with a celebrity, such as appearing at a grand opening or endorsing your product as a spokesperson.
Evaluating alignment also requires a fundamental understanding of the symbiotic relationship among celebrities, their fans and the media channels that connect them. To borrow a popular Hollywood phrase, “it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” Traditional news outlets (like People magazine) are in business to sell ad space, subscriptions and single copies. Celebrities must maintain a high profile to stoke demand and snag commercial assignments. Paparazzi earn cash for every celebrity image they can sell to photo agencies. And with the rise of social media, celebrities can make money through endorsements (Kim Kardashian makes thousands of dollars for every “tweet” mentioning her sponsor’s product). Even the most conservative news outlets reserve time or space for celebrity news because such fodder boosts ratings and circulation (which translates into – you guessed it – money).
Which brings me back to you. Obviously, you’re in business to make some cha-ching. Are you finding it difficult to compel customers to visit your establishment? Could you benefit from positive word-of-mouth (who doesn’t want to dine where the stars are spotted)?
A client experience offers food for thought. We helped launch the Orlando location of CRAVE, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based restaurant. Three days before their VIP party, our client announced that Quinton Aaron, star of the Academy Award-nominated film, “The Blind Side,” planned to attend in response to a personal invitation from the restaurant’s designers. Aaron graciously posed for photos with invited guests for more than an hour. The result of this celebrity involvement was incrementally more news coverage for the restaurant and an avalanche of social media-driven buzz (everyone who took a photo with Aaron posted it to their personal Facebook and Twitter feeds).
Have stars in your eyes yet? Not so fast. While working with celebrities has its pleasures, it can be fraught with peril (can you spell T-I-G-E-R or B-I-E-B-E-R?).
Here are six tips to help you navigate the slippery slopes of celebrity alignment.
- Recognize your needs and those of your target audience. Whether opening the doors to a new establishment or seeking to expand your client base, the added exposure that a celebrity garners can build more awareness for your business. Take an honest look at what you want to accomplish, and consider your message and target audience. Will they respond to a celebrity positively? Will they be more compelled to visit or make a purchase because of a celebrity appearance or testimonial?
- Identify your budget. Few establishments will have the same good fortune as that of our client when an A-lister appeared at their VIP party at no cost. Celebrities typically require compensation for their involvement. Some may participate in exchange for a donation to their pet charity. Or you may be able to secure a celebrity gratis if they come attached to a community cause that you are supporting. Start by establishing a budget that is fair and realistic. Not sure what to spend? Survey other non-competitive business owners in your area; ask peers with whom you network; or seek guidance from a PR or marketing expert in your market.
- Make a match. Once you have established your budget, set reasonable expectations for an appropriate fit. Celebrity compensation can run the gamut, from free to millions of dollars. Some can be surprisingly affordable: beginning day rates for cable-TV program and reality TV celebrities start for several thousand.
- Even mom-and-pop shops can play. So maybe the reality TV star de jour is out of the question for you. Every burb, town and city has “famous” local personalities with whom your target audience can identify: TV anchors, radio DJs, professional athletes and high-profile corporate leaders can be of interest to the average Joe Citizen who doesn’t often get the opportunity to rub elbows with the area elite, and to reporters who cover those beats.
- Finders, keepers. Don’t think you have the right connections to find, negotiate with and secure a celebrity? It can be surprisingly easy. Most nationally recognized celebrities are represented by agents who book their appearances, and the correct contact is just a few keystrokes away via an Internet search. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and inquire. Agents make money (that word again) for every gig they book for their clients. I recommend that you use the services of an attorney to assist with negotiations, or at the very least, review contracts. On the local level, network with everyone you know to find connections to personalities in your area. I like to start with non-profit organizations, which often have celebrity patrons.
- Take good care of your celebrity guest and your brand. Planning should begin long before the celeb arrives at your doorstep. Speak with their rep to identify particular needs, likes and dislikes. Include in your negotiations such details as travel (first class or coach), ground transportation (town car or cab), per diems for food and hotel arrangements. Assign a trusted member of your team to be the celeb’s personal escort during their entire visit. However, be mindful that celebs need privacy, time and respect as individuals – even if they don’t always return the courtesy. Treat the celebrity as you would a special guest in your own home, but never let them take advantage of your good graces. Most of all, enjoy the opportunity to bask in the celebrity spotlight – if not their shadow – for one glorious moment.
Content originally published in CokeSolutions