Hiring a well known celebrity to endorse or even be the face of your brand is a strategy that’s worked well for tons of brands over the years. But, as we’ve seen with people like Jared Fogle or, more recently, Brett Favre and Kanye West, having a celebrity spokesperson comes with risks. 

What are some things you should look for when deciding whether to hire a spokesperson? And how can you protect your business against some of the risks of tying your brand to a famous person?

Celebrity Spokesperson Benefits

The most obvious benefit of a celebrity spokesperson is attention. If your brand isn’t a household name, having it endorsed by one will get more people to take notice. Your ads will stand out and be more easily remembered. A spokesperson who has credibility in the eyes of the public will transfer some of that credibility to your product. According to a Forbes article by Steve Olenski, a celebrity endorsement is a great way to increase sales in the short term and brand awareness in the long term. 

Things to Consider

First and most importantly, before you start looking for a spokesperson, you need to understand your own brand. How can someone properly represent your company if you yourself haven’t nailed down what your brand is all about?

Once you have your brand identity dialed in, take a look at any of your competitors who have celebrity endorsements. If you’re seeing patterns in the type of person they use—athletes for example—steer your search in another direction. Remember, the point of this is to stand out. Don’t choose someone who’ll blend in with other spokespeople in your industry.   

Of course, you want to consider your potential customers as well. Make sure you understand their interests and what type of spokesperson is best suited to create emotional resonance with them. Who does your target audience trust enough to consider a product recommendation from? A well known name won’t help much if your customer base doesn’t consider them credible … or if they don’t recognize them. Are you going to hire a ’70s TV star to appeal to Gen Z? Of course not. For that demo, you should be looking at TikTok, which will be a much more appropriate channel to reach them on. Do your research and make sure you know what resonates with your audience.

Risks of Working With a Celebrity

Of course, you need to evaluate the potential risks of working with a certain personality. If they become involved with some kind of scandal or legal trouble, that will reflect poorly on your brand. So do your homework on any potential spokesperson. Have they been involved in any previous controversies? How confident are you that more controversies won’t come up? Or were they minor enough to justify a partnership? You might see dollar signs at the possibility of a celebrity endorser, but make sure you always have your long term brand equity in mind

And be proactive. Don’t think that your spokesperson, no matter how squeaky clean they seem, could never screw up. You don’t want to be caught off guard. Any delay in action on your part could leave the public wondering about your motives, even if you eventually make the right decision. Did you hesitate in taking action because you were worried about money and hoping the problem would blow over? 

Adidas' brand took a hit by not dropping partnership with Kanye West fast enough. 
Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@stereophototyp?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Sara Kurfeß</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/adidas?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>

Adidas made this mistake by not dropping Kanye West quickly enough following his antisemetic comments. That left people wondering whether public pressure rather than the comments themselves led to the end of their partnership. To be fair, the partnership was so large that they likely spent that time pouring over their contracts to make sure they did everything in a legally sound way. Still, the delay impacted public perception.

They could have avoided this with better planning. When you take on a celebrity influencer, have a plan in place just in case that person does something that turns public sentiment against them. Make sure you clearly state in their contract what your company considers unacceptable behavior. Knowing your brand values will help you map out those potential red lines. And having a plan for what to do after dropping a spokesperson will help your company move forward quickly while lessening the financial damage. 

Don’t Bet on Just One

Another way to mitigate this risk is to hire more than one spokesperson. Look at it like a sports team. Having the top player in the league is great, but what happens when that player gets injured? Do they have a solid backup? Is the rest of the team strong enough to pick up the slack?

By building a roster of spokespeople rather than relying on one, it’s a lot easier to end a relationship and keep moving forward on the strength of the others. Another advantage to having multiple spokespeople is that you can set up a diverse mix of influencers to appeal to separate demographics within your target audience

A celebrity spokesperson can be a great way to get your brand noticed and to build brand equity. But it’s not without its risks. No business owner wants a middle-of-the-night phone call from someone asking if they saw what their spokesperson just tweeted. Understand the risks and plan ahead to mitigate them.