Emma Usher
Mar 27, 2018

Booking global celebrities: Dos and don'ts

Asian brands enlisting the support of international talent can have a huge impact in the home market and abroad, but all too often they make the same easily avoidable mistakes, says UK talent booker Emma Usher.

Star sprinter Usain Bolt for Nissan
Star sprinter Usain Bolt for Nissan

The landscape for celebrity endorsement is constantly shifting and brands need to have the right strategy in place to get the most of out of working with talent. At the same time, language barriers, cultural differences and no fixed fee can make it difficult to start conversations.

After 30 years of helping global brands connect with thousands of celebrities like Kate Moss and Wayne Rooney for TV ads, PR campaigns and red carpet events, here's my advice for how brands in Asia can ‘get it right’ and really maximise their marketing when working with international talent:

Embed the celebrity in your brand 

Social media has made consumers savvier and more aware of the authenticity of endorsements. Simply having a celebrity attached to a campaign doesn’t have the impact it once did. Marketers need to find ways to make the celebrity part of a brand’s DNA.

From Lady Gaga becoming the Creative Director of Polaroid through to Nissan appointing Usain Bolt as the Director of Excitement and even Kanye West’s Yeezy collection with Adidas - ‘collaboration’ is stronger than ‘endorsement’ in the eyes of consumers.

When Chinese smartphone brand Honor signed 19-year-old Brooklyn Beckham as global brand ambassador to front the launch of the Honor 8, it built the campaign around his lifestyle - this played out well internationally.

Brooklyn Beckham using his Huawei Honor 8

Build demand in a new sales market with smart gifting 

Asian brands can get their product seen with celebrities without paying a full endorsement fee, and all it takes is to have three or four celebrities photographed wearing your product to sway the decision of a buyer in a brand new market. With a department store buyer, for example, if they see a celebrity using or wearing certain items in a brand’s catalogue or lookbook, they’re far more likely to select these regardless of whether or not the buyer prefers that product to others in the catalogue - it has a massive impact on their decision-making process.

Product seeding platforms can get products into the hands of celebrities around the world. We used ours to get the latest model Samsung phone into the hands of key talent at London Fashion Week and, as a result, they were photographed using their phones on the front row to take photos, which generated some great organic coverage for the brand. We also dressed Taylor Swift in a UK high street brand and she was pictured wearing the dress she had selected and the image was used internationally, resulting in a global sell out of the dress. This is a great way for brands to build their profile, get noticed in international markets and even to break into a previously untapped territory.

Talent booking: Macro vs micro

It can be more economical and often more impactful to work with several micro-influencers rather than one mediocre macro-influencer. Working with several can help to reach different audiences e.g. an athlete, musician and model. Some of the bigger names can also get ‘saturated’ with content if they do a lot of endorsement work and followers can tune out of what they do. Micro-influencers working in a niche also tend to have more engaged followers who pay greater attention to what they’re posting - this is especially the case with musicians.

Timing is important when choosing which influencer to work with. For example, we helped Samsung launch a new fridge product in the UK by working with Victoria Pendleton, an Olympic medallist. Samsung wanted to promote a healthy lifestyle and with the launch taking place shortly after the Olympics, Victoria was a natural fit and her profile in the UK was high, making her very press worthy.

The view from the Samsung fridge of Olympic medallist Victoria Pendleton

Know your numbers

When it comes to talking money, you should always know how much you should expect to pay - asking an agent ‘how much?’ will inevitably end with them plucking a high figure out of the sky. We were recently in a meeting with an agent who received a call from a consumer brand wanting to work with a reality TV star that he represented. The agent suggested a price 25x more than the usual rate and was obviously over the moon when the brand accepted it. Luckily we still nabbed the talent for our original price because we knew their value.

When booking abroad, working with a local talent booking agency that understands the customs, traditions and celebrity market in that country will be key. They will have great contacts, meaning they can get answers quickly, advise of the right talent for your needs and get the most cost-effective price too.

Emma Usher runs UK-based celebrity consultancy RunRagged and influencer platform the VIP Suite.


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