Maximizing In Person Influencer Partnerships for Brand Awareness

A first person picture of a man being photographed on a red carpet by photographers and crowds of people

Maximizing In Person Influencer Partnerships for Brand Awareness

By Megan Shroy, for

Influencer endorsements have the power to inspire consumers. Whether it’s social media and digital influencers or classic Hollywood A-listers, these partnerships increase the visibility of PR programs and typically generate content that can be leveraged across multiple channels.

While partnering with celebrities doesn’t come without risks, there are hundreds of articles and studies citing the benefits. This article in Advertising Age sums it up nicely, “Recent studies of hundreds of endorsements have indicated that sales for some brands increased up to 20% upon commencing an endorsement deal…some companies have seen their stock increase by .25% on the day the deal was announced.” This article was written in 2010, and though the type of celebrity that the mainstream now resonates with has begun to change, the effect of getting such an influencer, has not.

There are a number of ways to pair credible personalities with your brand to increase exposure. The most common are paying celebrities as spokespeople (product placement) and sponsoring events in places where you’d find said celebrities.

Celebrity Spokespersons

Oftentimes brands hire athletes, musicians, digital influencers, and some of Hollywood’s most recognizable names to promote their product or service. The benefits of using celebrity spokespersons include increased media opportunities, a credible third party endorsement, and of course, fan engagement.

Event Sponsorships

Another popular way to interface with celebrities is to sponsor events taking place at award shows, fashion weeks, film festivals and other industry summits which attract influential personalities. By hosting brand activations (for those who don’t know what a brand activation is) at these events, your client will be given the opportunity to attract endorsements and engage with celebrities. It’s common to be able to secure rights to use images of the celebrity with the product for brand publicity. Always be sure, however, that you secure permission in advance. 

Ethan Hawke and Jason Segal at a Tim Hortons promotional event
Celebrity influencers at a Tim Hortons promotional event.

What to Do When Working with a Celebrity Spokesperson

My agency, Approach PR & Marketing, which specializes in working with celebrities, does everything from negotiating contracts to coordinating media tours on behalf of a brand. Over the years, we’ve engaged with celebrities in a variety of different ways to help our clients achieve their PR goals and objectives. Here are some tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way.

  • Keep it authentic. Most celebrities have made a name for themselves based on their character roles or areas of expertise (e.g. athletes or chefs). When collaborating with a celebrity, be sure the nature of the partnership is true to the celebrity’s nature so it comes across as credible and believable. Would this personality actually use and support this product or service? Fans will see right though a phony partnership, which can really backfire, so do the work ahead of time to keep it authentic.
  • Tap into their fanbase. Celebrities can be protective of their social media profiles but, whenever possible, try to negotiate at least one or two posts on their channels in addition to the brand’s channel. As with the above tip, be sure that the content of their posts are authentic and uses proper disclosures.
  • Guarantee traffic before committing to a sponsorship: Oftentimes agencies putting on brand activations at high profile events will sell you on the fact that their event, party, etc. will attract celebrities and influencers all day long. Not quite. The reality is that unless celebrities have a reason or obligation to show up, there is no guarantee. When a client’s money is on the line, you want some assurance that you’ll see a certain amount of traffic. Look for reasons that celebrities and influencers will be certain to attend. Are they under contract to show up? Are there media outlets present where they can promote what they’re working on? Perhaps they’re required to get their official event photo taken or participate in a panel discussion. Make sure your brand activation is in a place that guarantees traffic.
  • Hire your own photographer! At brand activations or event sponsorships, a photographer is typically included in your sponsor package. However, keep in mind that the companies putting on these events have multiple sponsors to manage. Make sure you hire your own photographer to focus solely on your brand. When your spokesperson moves through a gifting suite or a media lounge, you have seconds to capture photos of him/her interfacing with your brand. You don’t want to rely on a group photographer to be there to capture those precious shots.
Gifting Suite at a Tim Hortons promotional event
Gifting suite for celebrity photo ops at the aforementioned Tim Hortons promotional event.
  • Expect the unexpected: As a brand’s agency partner, it’s your duty to go above and beyond and be organized with schedules and show flows (show flow definition), but you still need to remain nimble to deal with all the possible changes and last-minute requests. Take precautionary measures like building in 30-minutes to an hour of extra time for every activity (I’ve rarely worked with a celebrity spokesperson who was on time), and make sure you have experienced staff in place to deal with fires when they arise.
  • Prepare the celebrity with talking points and a thorough Q&A. Message training should always be offered to familiarize a spokesperson with brand talking points, even if your spokesperson assures you he/she is well-versed in conducting media interviews. Remember – these people are representing your brand. Research the background of any media outlets that have covered the celebrity in the past to prepare for and avoid any pitfalls or negative press, and discuss how to handle requests for autographs or photos in advance. 

Most importantly, relax…and treat celebrities professionally. It’s easy to feel anxious when high profile personalities are involved. But remember, it’s your job to protect the brand and get your client the most out of any celebrity partnership.

Megan Shroy

Megan Shroy

Megan Shroy is a publicist, marketing strategist, and the founder of Approach Marketing & PR, a fully virtual agency which has worked with companies such as Tim Hortons, Pepperidge Farm, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Read Megan’s case study on client-celebrity partnerships here.
Megan Shroy

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