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The New Celebrity Spokesperson Needs Social Media Smarts

by John Mataraza  |  
December 13, 2012

The value of a celebrity spokesperson is now rooted in their social eminence.

Brands have used the power of celebrity to promote their products with varying degrees of success over the years. Michael Jackson for Pepsi, Michael Jordan for Nike, David Beckham for Burger King, and Katy Perry for Pop Chips.

The brand is hoping more people will pay attention to its message because itís being delivered by somebody that consumers ostensibly care more about than the brand being pitched. Odds are that, because audience members are interested in this celebrity, they will at least pay closer attention to the commercial or, even better, take the spokespersonís word and go buy the product. In short, celebrities are hired by brands for their power to influence.

The Problem With Celebrity Spokespeople

The trouble is, the expectations of celebrity endorsement deals must be re-imagined in the age of social media.

Itís going to take more than just looking good or sounding good to make a true impact. Just shooting a couple 30-second spots and posing for some print ads was fine in 1995, but itís not going to cut it today when the potential to quickly connect with customers is so much greater via digital media. That means that we, as marketers, need to take a longer look at who we decide to hire and focus more on those folks that have diligently built their own social following.

An Example

For example, a client of mine, a major CPG player, maintains a cadre of celebrity spokespeople across sports, music, and entertainment. Letís take a look at two of these spokespeople: one a prominent athlete, the other a famous recording artist/musician. Each is arguably as famous as the other, but our athlete has zero social presence while our musician as almost 10 million Twitter followers.

Over the last couple of weeks, my client was able to activate the recording artist in a way not possible with the athlete by having her talk organically about the brand across her massive social following. According to Sysomos, her mentions helped my client to reach over 12 million people over a very short period, up sharply from normal. Whatís more, this kind of reach is even more powerful as her fans are highly engaged and more likely to take a cue from her than they would from the brand itself.

Meanwhile, our athlete has been making news for remarkable performances on the field, but weíve not been able to take advantage of this groundswell because he is completely absent with regards to social. No Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram, no following, and as a result = no social value. The best we can hope for is a fortuitously planned TV buy coinciding with a strong game-day performance.

What Changed

Social is beginning to become more and more foundational in a brandís overall media mix. Our musician has equipped herself to be more influential for the brand and, as a result, must be considered more valuable.

In a previous role, I helped oversee sports sponsorship strategy. I always struggled with the value of these sponsorships because---aside from a logo on the wall at Fenway, a few free tickets and related perks---it was hard to truly measure the impact of the deal.

Now, social is starting to make ROI for endorsement deals easier to quantify and place a true value on the partnership. Social listening tools can tell us how often our spokespeople are mentioning our product, how and in what forum they are doing so, how many people were exposed to these mentions, and most importantly, how many conversations were generated as a result of those mentions. These mentions equate to storytelling and powerful storytelling sells product.

When evaluating and exciting and glamorous list of celebrities to help spice up your next campaign, do a little digging into their social eminence. Will their influence fade as soon as the viewer fast-forwards through your TV spot? Or will they cast a longer shadow for your brand via their social clout?
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John Mataraza is director of Marketing at Digital Influence Group. You can connect with him on Twitter @jmaz3 or on LinkedIn.

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  • by Holly Fri Dec 21, 2012 via blog

    Social media has changed many aspects of marketing and business so it makes sense that it would effect celebrity spokesmen as well.

  • by Scott Sun Dec 23, 2012 via blog

    Great insights large corps. should consider. What the celebrities audience can do as a content delivery and branding channel.

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