Choosing a celebrity brand ambassador doesn’t sound too hard. Pick a star, slap their face on a few ads and watch the dollars roll in as they bring added credibility (and their fan base) to your brand. Right?
It’s absolutely true that a successful partnership between a celebrity and a brand can take marketing campaigns to the next level. Celebrities lend their personality, charisma and authority to a brand. And when it works, there may be nothing better for moving the marketing needle in terms of attention, reach and engagement.
But it doesn’t always work. Once a celebrity partners with a brand, their behavior doesn’t just reflect on them, it reflects on the brand. The good and the bad.
David Beckham is a classic example. In 1999, Becks signed a $6 million contract with hair-styling products brand Brylcreem. With his luscious locks, it seemed a dream partnership. A few years later, he shaved down to a buzzcut without telling the company. Brylcreem continued the contract (despite Beckham obviously not needing their products anymore) but sales reportedly dropped 25%.
With so much at stake, it’s important that brands look for a partnership where there are shared values between the celebrity, the brand and the consumer. It must feel real and authentic, with both sides committed to making the arrangement work.
Also, as brands begin to explore the vast and varied virtual worlds that are currently being built, we’re likely to see a lot more celebrities in the metaverse, recreated as AI-powered digital twins. That means consumers will be able to interact and engage with them in a fully immersive, scalable environment. Forging the right celebrity partnerships will become even more important; their reach will be that much broader.
So, let’s look at some celebrity ambassadors who truly understood the assignment, lending their personalities perfectly to the marketing campaigns they became the face of.
1. Ryan Reynolds and Aviation American Gin
Aviation American Gin is a brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously. And who better to embody that feeling than Ryan Reynolds, an actor whose comedy chops have been well established in everything from Van Wilder to Deadpool.
Reynolds typifies all the characteristics the brand wants to represent: fun, light-hearted, a little bit different and all about having a good time. But behind the jokes, it’s a quality product, which has earned the highest ever rating (for a gin) from Wine Enthusiast magazine. It’s like Reynolds himself, who might be a bit of joker, but is one of the highest-grossing actors of all-time.
While Aviation American Gin is a heady 84 proof, that’s not what gives this celebrity endorsement the extra kick. It’s the fact that Reynolds owns a stake in the brand – he’s got skin in the game, which shows he’s more than willing to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to this product.
Is there a better way to endorse a brand than that? Even if – as Reynolds points out in one of their quirky ads – Aviation American Gin is now technically “owned by a Canadian”. We’re sure you’re forgiven, Ryan.
2. Beats by Dre (and lots of other ambassadors)
Why have just one brand ambassador when you can have dozens, maybe even hundreds? That’s the strategy that has made Beats by Dre headphones a must-have accessory among music lovers the world over, leading to a massive $3 billion acquisition by Apple in 2014.
LeBron James, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Conor McGregor, Will.I.am, DJ Khaled, Michael Phelps and many, many more – the Beats by Dre celebrity endorsement list is a who’s who of elite athletes and musical superstars. And let’s not forget the multiple Grammy Award-winning Dr Dre himself, who created the headphones and put his name to them.
Suffice to say there was a period where you’d see the brand logo every time you turned on the TV. It seemed implausible that anyone could Forget About Dre in the early 2010s – and, by association, the Beats products.
Dre is known for being a perfectionist. You know how Stanley Kubrick was infamous for making actors redo shots, often dozens of times? Well, Dre is the rap version of Kubrick; as a producer, he once made a rapper re-record a single bar of vocals 107 times. Given his track record, it’s hardly a surprise that he was able to put together a high-quality product when he and fellow founder Jimmy Iovine spotted a gap in the market for headphones.
But what better way to show it’s a quality product than having everyone’s favorite celebrities rocking a pair? It seems almost effortless how quickly they’ve become embedded into the cultures of music and sports.
3. Amy Schumer and Tampax
Nearly six out of 10 (58%) American women have felt embarrassed simply for having their period. And 42% have experienced period shaming, often from a close friend or family member.
The survey, commissioned by THINX, shows there is a still a lot of stigma surrounding menstruation. Of the men polled, 44% admitted to having made a joke or comment on a partner’s mood when they’re on their period. Real classy, guys.
Tampax decided to tackle this stigma head-on, partnering with comedian Amy Schumer, whose blunt and earthy humor has earned her a reputation for not being afraid to say what she thinks. Love her or hate her, you’ll have to agree that the controversial comic is an ideal person to shine an important spotlight on a topic that some people are still uncomfortable talking about.
It’s not just about injecting a little humor into the mix though. Schumer’s ads are informative, providing tips on using tampons and disproving some common myths about periods and period products, all with her trademark chutzpah.
The campaign has been so successful that Procter & Gamble, the company behind Tampax, ‘blamed’ Schumer for an unprecedented run on the brand’s goods, with sales growth exploding. Their factories were allegedly forced to run 24/7 to keep up with demand. It doesn’t sound like the worst problem to have.
4. Charli D’Amelio and Dunkin’
Dunkin’ is a brand that’s fully embracing the digital age and isn’t shy about putting user-generated content front and center of its social media strategy. It was also one of the first companies to recognize the potential of TikTok for reaching new customers, especially Gen Zers.
With more than three million TikTok followers, Dunkin’ is ahead of McDonald’s (2.2 million) and Starbucks (1.8 million) on the platform. But the company hasn’t rested on its laurels – Dunkin’ realized that influencer marketing could be a big winner for the brand.
So, it was little surprise when they signed Charli D’Amelio as a brand ambassador. Until recently, D’Amelio was the most followed creator on TikTok (only being surpassed last month), plus she was already a big fan of Dunkin’. In fact, she was advertising their products on TikTok well before getting paid to do so.
Why is it such a good match? D’Amelio is young, sociable, fun and has built a massive fanbase and interactive community on TikTok. She exemplifies what Dunkin’ is trying to achieve as a brand. And the partnership has been a resounding success – the company claimed it saw a 45% increase in cold brew sales just two days after the release of The Charli, a limited-edition drink they named after the influencer.
And if you’re too young for a coffee, perhaps you’ll prefer simply dancing along with the influencer instead, Dunkin’ cup-in-hand optional. Now that’s a campaign that works across many age groups.
5. Colin Kaepernick and Nike
If you’re regular readers of our blog, you’ll know we’re big fans of the campaign that Nike ran to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Just Do It slogan. The flagship video, titled ‘Dream Crazy’ was classic Nike; passionate, poignant, and aspirational.
The message? Never stop pushing yourself to be the best and, more importantly, believe in yourself, even when no one else does. The ad is also about celebrating diversity and inclusion; being competitive, yes, but also being principled, fair and supportive.
We can’t think of anyone better to personify those values than Colin Kaepernick, who – as the narrator – brings gravitas and authenticity to the campaign because of his civil rights activism. In protest against racial inequality, Kaepernick began kneeling during the US national anthem throughout the 2016 NFL season.
After that season, he became a free agent and has remained unsigned ever since, with many pundits suggesting he has been blacklisted by NFL teams for being too political. The NFL’s loss is Nike’s gain, however, as Kaepernick is now the ideal face for a brand keen to promote integrity, equality and sincerity.
We’re not surprised that Nike got everything right with this campaign. After all, it’s not their first rodeo. They’ve mastered celebrity brand ambassadorship over the years, most notably in their partnership with NBA legend Michael Jordan. Nike first created the signature Air Jordans sneakers in 1984 – a cultural phenomenon that’s still going strong today.
Digital humans: Brand ambassadors for the AI era
Celebrity brand ambassadors do a lot of things well. A famous face humanizes a brand, building trust and familiarity. For many people, if their favorite celeb endorses a brand, it’s just as good as a recommendation from a close friend or family, perhaps even better.
But what about interactive consumer experiences? Influencers like Charli D’Amelio are great at fostering a sense of community and engagement, but she’s still only one person. She can’t respond to all her millions of followers, at least not individually in a unique, personalized way. Digital human brand ambassadors can.
Creating a digitized version of a celebrity, powered by conversational AI, means they can have the personality, warmth and values of the real thing. That’s on top of being interactive by nature, and available 24/7 to as many people as necessary all at once. It’s a largely untapped side of brand ambassadorship we’re sure to see much more of in the AI era.
Imagine Michael Jordan helping you pick out a pair of Air Jordans, before giving you tips on your free-throw technique in the metaverse. That’s the future of brand experience – scaling what works in advertising into interactive, personal digital experiences. Scaling the feeling of meeting your favorite celebrity to the nth degree.
While the metaverse is yet to be fully realized, digital humans are helping organizations to engage with audiences in new and exciting ways. Digital human celebrity brand ambassadors are one of many use cases.
To catch a glimpse of what we mean, why not check out Digital Einstein? We created him on the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein winning the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics. Using our state-of-the-art digital human platform, we replicated Einstein’s unique personality and mannerisms and enabled him to chat with you through both speech and text. Give him a try!
And please check out our eBook on the topic if you’d like to learn more about digital humans in marketing and the results they can get throughout the funnel. We believe they represent the next step in celebrity brand ambassadorship. But what do you think? We’d love to hear your feedback.