Using celebrities to promote brands has been a “long and winding road”. While that Beatles song was about the band’s relationship, the title aptly describes the complex nature of stars’ endorsements. In recent years, the dynamics have evolved, according to entertainment industry insiders working in music, sports and modeling. At a Tuesday Advertising Week panel in New York, the discussion and takeaways also focused on the current state of celebrity marketing, deal-making, media exposure and social media.
Shifting perspectives: “Until recently superstars didn’t want to touch celebrity endorsements,” said Tommy Mottola, well-known music executive and talent manager. But now he said only a handful of A-listers, like Bruce Springsteen, steer clear of such promotions. As Ryan Schinman, CEO of Platinum Rye Entertainment added, “Meryl Streep is the only female Oscar winner who hasn’t appeared in ads.” Online videos are partly responsible, noted Jon Liebman, CEO of Brillstein Entertainment Partners. “Though stars often did endorsements overseas, now YouTube offers fans access to international ads.”
Reasons for “selling out” vary by category: In the music business it’s mainly about money, Mottola observed. “Now music revenues have been significantly reduced. So that’s helped promote the need to find other income sources”, he said. Meanwhile, “sports endorsements were catapulted by the example of Michael Jordan”, said Mike Levine, co-head of CAA Sports. “In modeling, there were fewer magazine covers available when actors and musicians began appearing on covers. So models had to figure out what else to do”, explained Faith Kates, founder of Next Model Management.
Close alignment between brands and talent: “I don’t want to let my clients in any way hurt their core business, which is acting”, said Liebman. “I make sure it’s a safe shot that’s interesting and fun.” Mottola considers deals “that enhance the artists’ image and broadens their horizons.” As for Kates, “I look for the right team, brand and package. I want long-term opportunities, not hit-and-runs,” she said.