Will Smith is selling water. Kobe Bryant is pushing deodorant. Mark Wahlberg is peddling protein powder. YouTube star JoJo Siwa, known for wearing big, colorful hairbows, is hawking, well, big colorful hairbows.
Amazon.com Inc. is tapping high-profile actors, athletes and social-media sensations like never before to maintain buzz around its Prime Day summer sale, now in its fifth year and battling increasing competition from rivals.
Discounted pressure cookers and gadgets just aren’t enough to stand out when shoppers can find a flurry of bargains elsewhere. Walmart started a competing four-day sale on Sunday. Target is emphasizing sales on its exclusive clothing and home goods shoppers can’t buy on Amazon. eBay is taunting last year’s Prime Day website outage with a “Crash Sale” offering deals on smartphones, electronics and fashion. And all of them are emphasizing that their deals don’t require paid membership like Amazon. Some 250 retailers are staging their own sales to compete with Prime Day, up from 194 last year, according to research firm RetailMeNot.
So Amazon last week promoted its two-day event beginning July 15 with a Taylor Swift concert and is pushing celebrity-backed merchandise targeting every demographic to keep Prime Day flourishing in headlines and social media. So far it appears to be working.
The sale generated about 12 billion media impressions—views of television and online content about the day—as of Friday, according to Stacy Jones, who runs the entertainment marketing agency Hollywood Branded. That’s about the same as for the deal H&M struck with Netflix to sell 80s-style clothing featured in its hit show “Stranger Things,” she says.
Shoppers will spend $5.8 billion on Amazon over the two days, according to Coresight Research. That’s an 11% increase from last year’s 36-hour sale when converted to spending per hour. “Amazon is giving these celebrities the opportunity to sell their brands on a very powerful platform,” Jones says.
The celebrity focus shows how much Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos—now tabloid fodder himself in the wake of his high-profile affair and divorce—has changed his thinking about the value of celebrity promotion. Amazon historically relied on customer reviews, which don’t cost anything, to sell products rather than million-dollar pop star endorsements.