By Kristy Hesom

Brands often choose celebrities to be their brand ambassadors. These celebrities not only need to encompass the ideals of the brand beforehand, but need to continue that image throughout the relationship. 

Why would a brand choose a celebrity ambassador?

“A celebrity brand ambassador is a major score for any brand,” says Kirby Venlet, account manager at CSA, a 360° media group with divisions in communications, events and artist attainment. When a brand has a recognisable face associated with their brand, it “increases brand awareness and social media discussion in a big way”, she says.

It is also important that consumers can relate to a brand ambassador, and aspire to be like them too. 

In an article written for How We Made It In Africa, Kate Douglas quotes Michael Wood, founder and director of business consulting company Aperio: “A lot of African consumers, especially the emerging middle class, are very aspirational. So if you can provide them with someone that they want to aspire to, then some kind of celebrity endorsement or recommendation can work.”

How does a brand benefit?

Brands can benefit from having a celebrity brand ambassador in many ways. Their influence on their audience as a trustworthy source, as well as their extended reach are, however, important factors to focus on.  

“Having a celebrity endorse a brand in any medium is a stamp of approval that will be instantly be recognised and appreciated by consumers,” says Venlet. Consumers will often trust a third party’s recommendation rather than that of the brand itself, Venlet points out. 

Steven Murray, MD of Zomato, agrees, saying that social media has become word of mouth in the digital form. Therefore, “when we make decisions, we are inclined to follow a popular opinion or the opinion of someone we trust”, he says.

While celebrity brand ambassadors facilitate in building trust with consumers, they also offer a brand a huge increase in exposure, says Venlet. 

She explains; “Not only does the celebrity bring their audience, they also bring their audience’s extended network. In other words, the bigger the celebrity, the bigger the potential audience.”

How do you get a celebrity brand ambassador?

There are certain considerations that need to be made to ensure that the celebrity and the brand fit together. Yes, the public may love that celebrity, but should they really represent your brand? 

Venlet says that you have to think about it as if you were setting up your friend on a date: “Does the celebrity have anything in common with the brand? Will they be able to relate to each other? Will they make a good couple?” 

Although Murray’s view is slightly more serious, the fundamentals are the same: “Essentially, is there an alignment of ethics, brand message and passion for what we do? Are they influential within the community we are trying to reach?” 

Before approaching the celebrity, and once they have answered ‘Yes!” to these questions, Murray and Venlet agree that the next (and very important) step is research. 

Zomato takes their selection process very seriously, says Murray. Once they have spent significant time researching the ambassador, they reach out to them, introduce them to the brand in an interview, and if they see them as a fit, they take the relationship from there. 

Venlet says CSA follows five steps before acquiring a celebrity brand ambassador: Research; Identify; Approach; Negotiate; and Contract.

Venlet also points out that CSA uses the idea of “a Pan-African community of influencers”, which goes back to Wood’s point earlier; African consumers aspire to be like people they can relate to. 

You can check out some South African brand ambassadors here

Who are your favourite celebrity brand ambassadors? Tell us in the comments below.