With Sergio Garcia making negative headlines this week, his sponsors are backpedaling faster than a ball on the slick green on 17! The irony is that the target of his abuse is Tiger Woods, himself no stranger to having brands turn their back on a once-promising relationship. Having worked with hundreds of celebrities ranging from using their likeness on packaging, filming on-air spots, event appearances, and more, I have insight into the proper selection and use of talent to drive your marketing needs. In my new book, The Surfer's Guide To Marketing, I discuss celebrity engagements, or what I call the use of Starfish. Here is an outline of considerations when deciding if you should engage celebrity talent, what person to best align with for your brand, and the best practices to leverage your relationship with the celeb.
Every brand is different and requires a unique voice, positioning, and style. You speak to unique audiences and segments so we need to ensure that we all understand there is no one surfboard for every condition. The next star might not be the right star. So let’s explore some of the criteria for adding a Starfish to your roster.
1) Define what your brand is and what you want to say. Write a few key words that your brand would demonstrate if it was a human being. Are your shoes cool, sleek, stylish? Is your vacuum cleaner reliable, easy, and quiet? Whatever your brand identity is, make a note of it.
2) Who are you targeting? It's Marketing 101 but we need to identify if we are looking at an upscale, cerebral demo or a fanatical, face-painting everyman. While certain big names transcend the brand, it makes sense to ensure that the ideal representative is identifiable with your target. Sports fans want athletes but the same probably can't be said for a mom at the retail make-up counter. Ensure you have the right demo in mind before trying to sign a name to speak to them.
3) Credibility. Knowing that Starfish are human (did I just write that?!), we can start to target athletes or artists that have the similar characteristics as your brand or appeal to the demographic. Similar to the chapter on Environmentalists, this association must be true and relevant. Michael Jordan can promote Haines because he wears underwear (I’m assuming). But would he be a good Head & Shoulders pitch man since he’s bald? Probably best saved for Troy Polamalu and his flowing mane. The credibility of the Starfish is key to persuading the consumer to follow the spokesman’s lead.
There are two parts to credibility; the Starfish’s perceived honesty and probability. The first is simple; would a consumer believe the spokesman? Are they honest or at least appear to be honest? If a convicted felon appears on TV and tells you the hamburger shop down the road is great, do you automatically believe him?
The second-half of credibility is the consumer’s impression that the Starfish is an expert in his field and the brand they use is a factor. Their perceived expertise or ability to excel in their field while possibly using said product is a key to the story. Halle Berry is beautiful and she probably uses the makeup she promotes to get there. Sergio's clubs are TaylorMade and as the tools of his trade, it's a logical connection. It’s a capable story that the consumer can associate with. Does the identity, credibility, and expertise of the brand and Starfish intertwine? If so, highlight those names and continue.
Take the brand attributes and the human characteristics we’ve listed in Step 1 and Step 2 and start to list appropriate Starfish that could support both columns. Don’t worry at this point about unique factors like cost, accessibility, etc. We can eliminate those later.
4) Appeal. In the most vapid, vain line in The Surfer’s Guide To Marketing... I ask if the Starfish is attractive? While it’s a no-brainer to have a beautiful supermodel promote makeup and clothing, a pitchman must skew high on a physically attractive scale based on the most primitive laws of attraction. I discuss how our Brand Ambassadors need to meet a level of criteria that includes physical appearance because countless consumer research has the targeted demographic responding more favorably to those who they rank higher on a scale of attractiveness.
While there are exceptions to every rule (Ask anyone who knows my beautiful wife and wonders if I’m holding her hostage in our marriage) the rule of attraction, combined with credibility, and awareness form the basis for your Starfish. Sergio may not be quite a looker himself but the more appealing a Starfish is, the more likely they will be received by the public. How often does Tom Brady's "movie star" looks come into the conversation when discussing his endorsements? Check your list, highlight the Starfish who are still on the roster and now you know who would be an ideal representative for your brand.
5) Reality. Even though Hugh Jackman is your ideal representative and his looks, honesty, and multi-talented acting and singing abilities would make your restaurant or clothing line a huge hit, is it feasible? Many Starfish are not inexpensive and there are “levels” that you need to stay within if you are a smaller company or brand. An MLS soccer player in your market would still drive traffic at literally one-hundredth of the cost of getting Wolverine to appear. After all the exploration of the right celebrity for your brand, there needs to be a realistic look at what you can afford and the logistics of using the Starfish. Perhaps the national star or league MVP mirrors a similar type of player on your city’s team that will have a great impact. Replacing an Oscar winner with a reality star might fit both your brand and budget. Explore the limitations and see if your ideal Starfish is able to swim with your brand.
Once you have the ideal candidate to represent your brand, you need to establish the best way to leverage that relationship. For an entire discussion on how to utilize a Starfish in your campaign, check out The Surfer’s Guide To Marketing.
Randy Rovegno is an award-winning marketer with LONGBOARD Marketing and his list of brands he has created celebrity engagements for include ESPN, NFL, FOX, AT&T, Upper Deck, ABC, and more. He has worked with countless athletes and celebrities including Drew Brees, Wayne Gretzky, Ray Romano, and more. His new book, The Surfer's Guide To Marketing is available this week and features a humorous look at marketing and demonstrates his proven techniques and tips via real-world case studies. Follow The Surfer's Guide To Marketing on Facebook.