There is no question about the extraordinarily high level of influence of celebrities in our society. The clothes that they wear one day fly off the shelves the next and when celebrities say they like a certain product, the sales of that product increases by double digit percentages.
Sponsoring celebrity events is one of the lowest cost and fastest turnaround options for brand managers to obtain tangible assets that can be shared with consumers, news outlets and retail distributors to impact sales.
Events attract top tier press, and provide content takeaways that can easily be seeded to press. Events also provide the opportunity to create brand advocates and build relationships with attending celebrities.
Celebrity event activations range from film festivals, fashion shows, award shows, premiere parties, celebrity birthdays, charities and custom events.
But many brands don’t take advantage of the full potential of an event, and brand managers should look at these 12 Steps before activating their next event sponsorship.
1. Source Relevant Events
Celebrity events occur almost every week of the year, and the larger events align with major Hollywood happenings. Brand managers should ensure that whichever event is partnered with, there is an organic reason, and the event should support the brand as much as the reverse being true.
- Look for charity events that are being hosted by celebrities. Not only is involvement in a 501(c)3 a tax deduction, if the partnership truly resonates with the brand there is great PR value.
- Around every major televised Award Show official and non-official event sponsorships exist. Sample options include this list. Determine if being part of the “Official” event is worth the cache. If the “Official” event is being held at the same location as the event, always choose that event option if the category is available and the price tag a fit. These “Official” events will have a higher caliber of celebrity attendance as the celebrities will go through the lounge during one of their rehearsal breaks. Otherwise, choose wisely – some of the non-official event producers do an excellent job at wrangling celebrities and ensuring a strong branding opportunity – others, not so much.
- Most Film Festivals typically have both Official and Non-Official celebrity gifting suites as part of the event where brands can provide sampling and directly engage with attending celebrities.
- Dependent upon brand category, there are opportunities to align with celebrities who are on book tours promoting their recent works. Sampling can occur during press junkets or book readings, and contests can be run through social media. Brands can actually help ‘make’ these events and have high stake ownership.
- Every sports team has a charity extension, and their sports heroes offer a fantastic regional and well as national footprint for brand partnerships – without the high endorsement price tag, and provide introductions to potential future larger individual partnerships.
- Many athletes – and some actors – support charity causes with smaller private events, including golf or poker tournaments. These events offer brands to participate as auction items, be placed in gift bags or serve as ‘grand prizes.’ Actors and musicians are also major sports enthusiasts, and attend many of these events.
- Music Festivals offer large scale partnerships at high price tags, but many festivals and industry events such as SXSW or Coachella offer lower priced ‘non-official’ separate event activations that specifically exist for solely for the sake of brand partnerships. These events notoriously are great for photographs and social media assets, and provide great grass-roots marketing options.
2. Be On Hand To Activate The Event
Whether the brand manager hires an agency to coordinate and activate the event elements, or if the brand team chooses to send their own people to run it, brand managers should be absolutely sure to have someone on hand to oversee the event, and never simply have the event producer handle the activation. The event producer has too much going on to make sure celebrities are wrangled at the right moment, and that every publicist or editor attending walks away with a media kit and solid information. Nor will they be able to speak effectively and cover all the important marketing points.
3. Design The Layout
Whether product is simply being sampled or if an entire booth display is being set up, brand managers should make sure that well branded signage that coordinates to the event is created. This includes having at least one roll up banner with the brand’s logo and/or image in a step and repeat pattern. With event producer approval, this banner can be placed at strategic points throughout the venue, as well as provide a photo backdrop behind a sampling table.
The sampling table should have products on display that are not part of the giveaways, to ensure there is never a gap during a photo perfect moment.
Table cards that also include the brands hashtags should be present, so that wandering attendees and celebs easily can see social media handles and the relevant call to action.
4. Participate In The Red Carpet
Red carpets with branded step and repeats are a brand’s dream as photographers will cover the celebrity arrivals of any event in detail. If there is an opportunity to sponsor the red carpet, and obtain the coveted logo on the step and repeat, brand managers should by all means stretch marketing dollars. These photos go viral, and while the brand’s product will not be seen with the celebrity the overall sponsorship and branding will resonate online for years to come. We’ve also seen pictures of so-so talent go big years later, when their careers hit a rise and press clamor for red-carpet worthy images.
These photos will be the most published takeaways from the event, and proactively shared with media by the event producers. In fact, when the press coverage posts the next day, over 90% of the images will be of the celebrities walking the red carpet. This allows those perfect branded photo moments that will live beyond the event, and which will also live online to be picked up by other press outlets in the future. The red carpet step and repeat is the easiest option to get branding takeaways from an event.
5. Brand Knowledge & Touch Points
Brand managers should ensure that there is a script that is memorized by anyone on the brand team working the event. Publicists and editors – even with video crews – pop up unexpectedly, and being prepared with talking points is the only way to guarantee smooth reviews. And plan to have star moments – there are a lot of digital press sites that cover Hollywood events, and while they may not be the biggest names in the industry, they do an excellent job at capturing the event, and have strong digital following.
Having a cheat sheet with key points that can also be given to the attending media is important. Most media attending events don’t really want an entire media kit – they do want facts and fun quotes, and most importantly want to know which celebrity said what, and if there is a corresponding photo to match.
The brand manager will also need to have a cheat sheet of what the ideal social media postings may look like for the brand in order to provide suggestions to attendees and talent. Being fun, and developing a hashtag that is easily shareable is one of the better ways to solicit attendee social engagement. On the display and table, and wherever else allowed, make sure there is a relevant social media branded site to reference included.
Just as strong as photographs – and what turns an accompanying photograph into a piece of media gold, are testimonials. Have a notebook or even a recorder in place to capture what celebrities say about the brand, no matter how significant.
It is usually easiest to have one brand point talking directly with the celebrity as they are looking at the sampling booth’s products, with another brand point carefully positioned to the side, writing everything of note down.
These testimonials should be listed together after the event and shared with attending media, as well as positioned in a wrap report that is sent to additional media after the event.
7. The Gift
Regardless of event type, brand managers should make sure they have product on hand for sampling and gifting. The levels of product can range – and even be in the format of a gift certificate if the item would be too bulky, heavy or need to be customized for the celebrity.
Even attending media should be receiving some sort of takeaway – it does not need to be at the same level as that which the celebrity receives.
If the product does not lend itself to giveaway, the brand manager should create a charity concept which engages the attending celebrities and media. Providing the celebrity the opportunity to choose an option to donate product in their name helps bring them some feel-good press as well.
8. Product Photos
Celebrities like free things just as much as – and perhaps even more so – than average everyday people. In fact, they often come to expect it. But with that expectation is the absolute realization that the brand wants a photo or testimonial in return, and celebrities are excellent at posing. Some celebrities may shy away from freebies, but those who attend gift lounges are there to horde gifts, and will hold still and smile while positioning the brand outward to the camera.
Whenever possible, arrange to have a private photographer that only is there to take photos of the brand, as it often happens that the ones hired by the event are dashing off for another brand need right at the key moment the celebrity is standing in front of the sampling booth.
Make sure that the camera has good focal points, including height and depth variances of branding and product display. The more creative and unique the display, the more photogenic and likely the photos will be picked up by media.
9. Social Media Posts
Not only should the brand team in place managing the activation be posting to social media live from the event, some sort of “Tweet To Win” stations should be set up with a high enough incentive that attending media and celebrities will be encouraged to “enter to win” by providing a response to a fun question. Just giving away the same product to everyone does not encourage social posting. The easiest way to provide the winning prize either on site that day, or ship immediately following the event – but regardless, choose the winner at the close of event in order to encourage submissions through the end. Having ‘runner up’ prizing set for various times throughout the event will also provoke attendees to ante up social posts as those times draw near.
Celebrities with strong social media fan bases offer the ‘big win’, but even celebrities with bigger names and smaller social media offer a great takeaway that can be re-shared through the brands sites.
10. PR Release
If the event will allow it, broker the option to create a PR release, and then share it digitally on a site such as PR Web. Regardless, the event itself should also be including the brand partner in all press releases associated with the event. While direct media pitching truly is needed for photo pick up in magazines, the digital PR release will help with overall brand SEO, and as media are googling for additional information online, they will come across the press release, and assume a larger partnership. Plus, this release will live in perpetuity online, always reminding consumers and media of the brand’s previous partnership.
Just because the event has invited press does not mean the event producer will not be open to other press attending. Make a list of relevant press outlets, and gain approval from the producer to invite them. Not only will this ensure targeted coverage for the brand, many outlets may not typically cover entertainment and celebrity, and this opportunity might be big enough in their mind to send a writer or even a crew for coverage.
And by all means, once photos and testimonials are compiled, don’t just have them sit on the brand manager’s desk. Post them on Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, and whatever other social platforms exist.
Send recaps out to press, create overviews that are polished for sales teams to share with distribution outlet – find ways to use the assets obtained, as no one else will otherwise.
12. The Other Brands
It will be rare for only one brand to be sponsoring an event. Make sure enough items are brought for giveaways that additional gifting can occur with key brand points or their agencies where other natural partnerships could occur. In the entertainment event space, it never hurts to know more people and extend connections. After a long day, those brand points will be delighted to get something for themselves, and may remember the brand and reach out when they uncover opportunities that would be a fit.
The easiest way to oversee and activate any celebrity event is to hire a seasoned entertainment marketing agency that has done dozens of events and knows the layout of the land, what can go wrong and how to make it right. Working with a company that has experience in this space will provide the desired end results.