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When Endorsers Become Creative Directors

When Endorsers Become Creative Directors

4 minute read

  • Brands are looking to celebrity and athlete endorsers for their creative influence and in many instances have begun recruiting them as creative directors
  • This practice can add authenticity to the brand and endorser relationship
  • Celebrity Creative Director roles are often more symbolic in nature given the time constraints on endorsers

Celebrity and athlete endorsers are going beyond standard appearances in brand campaigns as more and more brands have recruited notable athletes and celebrities for a creative director. From Justin Timberlake and Bud Light, Jessica Alba and Microsoft, and Lady Gaga and Polaroid, celebrities have been tapped for their creative vision to help shape new products or campaigns. While the creation of these roles are largely symbolic and a branding exercise itself, when brands do give creative control to an endorser, there are several keys to ensure a successful partnership. 

Why are we Seeing This?

Lend more authenticity to the partnership – Brands have been leveraging celebrity and athlete endorsers for several years now. Consumers understand this strategy and when not executed properly, can become skeptical of the authenticity of the relationship. In a study conducted last year, it was revealed that 70% of millennials preferred endorsements from their peers (ex. Family and friends) than traditional celebrities. To create more authenticity to a celebrity or athlete endorsement, it can make it more believable if that endorser has a personal say in the product they are pitching or the creative they are engaged in.

Creates a more committed endorser – Offering more creative control and input to an endorser can help ensure that they remain committed to the relationship and the product. In the past, there have been instances where endorsers demonstrate a lack of commitment to their endorser brand, such as a 2012 example when Coca Cola endorser and one of the world’s top soccer players at the time, Ronaldinho, was seen drinking Pepsi during a press conference. Leveraging endorser talent in the creative process can create more invested celebrity talent.

Ensuring a Successful Partnership

While these partnerships call the endorsing celebrity and athlete a “creative director” it is unlikely that they will be taking the role of a full-time creative director. The endorser is already committed to their own projects and becoming a creative director requires several hours of training and schooling. This should be kept in mind when a brand decides to recruit a celebrity creative director and ensure that they set their new endorser up for success. This means giving them creative influence but not a full-time job.

In 2013, BlackBerry announced Alicia Keys as their global creative director and was promoted as being brought in to help grow BlackBerry’s business. The press release cited that Keys would be “working closely with app developers, content creators, retailers, carriers and entertainers, Keys will be an active member of the BlackBerry community”. This is a large role for someone who is already a committed musician and likely on the road for a large portion of the year. Keys’ relationship with Blackberry ended after one year and the commitment from Keys was questioned as she was caught tweeting from her iPhone after being named as part of BlackBerry.

Case Studies

Pharrell & American Express – In December of last year, American Express announced that musician Pharrell would become the new creative director of their Platinum Card. American Express heavily promotes the benefits and experiences their cards provide their consumers. It was announced that Pharrell would be brought on to set the creative direction for future American Express Platinum Card benefits and other experiences. When Pharrell was announced as the creative director it was clearly outlined that he would be working to tailor the experiences for consumers and nothing that would be outside of his skills set. This brought more authenticity to the partnership and set both American Express and Pharrell up for success.

Russell Westbrook & True Religion – Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook was named the creative director for fashion brand True Religion’s spring campaign in 2015. Westbrook is noted for his fashion as his pre-game outfits are consistently shown on broadcast and discussed by commentators. He has also attended multiple European fashion shows during the offseason. Additionally, True Religion is a brand that already fit with Westbrook’s style, making the partnership more authentic. These factors made the announcement of Westbrook as a creative director more believable as well as the fact that they announced that he would serve as creative director for one campaign. This limited time served as a creative director helps ensure that Westbrook can dedicate the time needed for one campaign and it was not an ongoing role. The partnership can also take advantage of his down time in the offseason which is time he usually dedicates to fashion.

While a celebrity or athlete endorser can provide valuable creative influence, it is important for brands to not rely too heavily on them as they will likely not have the training or time to dedicate to becoming a full-time creative director. By outlining specific tasks and setting them up to succeed can ensure that both the brand and the endorsers see a beneficial relationship.

Picks of the Week: August 28, 2017

Picks of the Week: August 28, 2017

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