Why enterprise companies hire celebrity and influencer partners
It's 2023, and everyone wants more. As a marketer, you know that a star-studded collaboration should yield more than a few viral Instagram posts. To open hearts (and wallets), you need a strategic approach.
Enterprise companies know this to be true, and as such, they’re getting strategic with celebrity and influencer partnerships.
Why is that? The founder of Sharma Brands, Nik Sharma, put it well. “Candidly, I think a lot of brands are looking for ways to get more eyeballs for a lesser cost”, he said. “A few years ago, Facebook CPMs were that arbitrage. Today, that arbitrage is giving equity to creators or celebrities and having them be involved.”
But before you run off to pitch a new celeb partnership, let’s dive deeper into what it takes to pull off a mega-successful collaboration between enterprise-level brands and celebrities—starting with the why.
Why would an enterprise company hire a celebrity partner?
In today’s overcrowded, overstimulated world, differentiation is key, and celebrity partnerships are a goldmine of opportunities waiting to be unlocked. For enterprise companies looking to land high-dollar clients, celebrity and influencer partnerships lend some serious social proof.
Here are a few more reasons these two worlds go hand-in-hand:
- Wider reach
On social media and in the public eye, celebrities are potential role models for their followers and fans. Naturally having more reach and international appeal than lower-level influencers, a celebrity partnership translates into better brand exposure. Generating engagement is the top reason for investing in celebrity partnerships, according to 48% of marketers in a recent survey.
Their strong online presence is your leverage, so you get to tap into their fan base for better brand exposure. This increased reach and visibility also make your brand more recognizable and reliable in the eyes of consumers.
- Brand image
Your favorite celebrities have a social standing and a positive public perception that you can instantly transfer to your brand when you partner with them. These authority figures are great for shifting consumers’ mindsets toward your brand and building a trustworthy reputation in the market.
If you’re thinking of entering a new demographic or market, a celebrity partnership can immediately establish your brand and erase doubts for potential future consumers.
Looking at it up-front, a $100 million contract sounds too expensive, doesn’t it? But Nike’s partnership with Tiger Woods proved that wrong. Not once, but twice. The golfing superstar was able to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars worth of sales for the brand well within their contract term, proving just how high the ROI can be.
With social media becoming the primary platform now, brands have the opportunity to reach a much larger audience at a fraction of the cost of a traditional TV or print ads campaign. This makes a seemingly expensive celebrity endorsement worth the investment.
Celebrities know how important it is for a brand to maintain a professional relationship, so they represent the brand in a positive and polished way. Their prior experience helps forge a strategic alliance that connects with the audience and remains authentic to the brand.
For SaaS companies, this is even more valuable, since the target audience expects professionalism from the brands they choose to buy from. By expertly deciding which celebrity to collaborate with, you can execute a successful partnership through your spokesperson and generate sales organically.
- Competitive edge
Making your SaaS brand stand out isn’t an easy feat, and a crowded market makes it necessary for you to acquire a competitive edge. By associating with a celebrity, you quickly differentiate yourself from competitors and become memorable in the eyes of the audience.
For example, Jennifer Aniston’s multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Dubai-based Emirates Airlines has led to significant growth for the brand. Their marketing campaign’s message was so well-received thanks to the actress’ popularity on a global scale. This differentiation led to increased sales and improved customer retention rates for the airlines, along with prestigious awards and an unbeatable reputation.
Brand loyalty is a tough nut to crack, and consumers today look for credibility markers at every stage. Advantageous celebrity partnerships can help you highlight your company’s commitment to keeping the consumers’ experiences as a top priority and enhance your reputation.
Another aspect of this is the social responsibility of the brand to the society. Socially conscious consumers are more likely to purchase from a brand that partners with a celebrity who advocates for meaningful causes. By associating your brand’s mission with theirs, you can boost your reputation and improve sales at the same time.
Three enterprise SaaS companies working with celebrities
As brilliant as these partnerships may sound, there is a truckload of work that goes into making a celebrity collaboration a raging success. As always, one of the best ways to learn the ways of the trade is to observe those who’ve accomplished the feat and learn from their experiences. Let’s dissect 3 enterprise SaaS companies currently working with celebrities and succeeding at it.
- AudiencePlus with Danielle Fishel
AudiencePlus is a leading player in the data analytics software industry that recently announced a collaboration with the popular and multi-talented actress and model Danielle Fishel. Fishel played the lovable character Topanga in the hit 90’s sitcom ‘Boy Meets World’ and has over a million followers on Instagram.
The brand cleverly appointed her as the host for the virtual launch party for their latest product and incentivized the audience to register for the event in the hopes of winning a virtual ‘Meet & Greet’ session with her. This was mutually beneficial for both, as Fishel was able to harness her popularity while targeting a tech-oriented audience and AudiencePlus generated high traffic for their platform launch.
Anthony Kennada, the co-founder and CEO of AudiencePlus explains, “One of the primary benefits for SaaS companies leveraging celebrity endorsement is attention -- to break through the digital noise pollution and capture the attention of their audience.”
Kannada went on to explain that celebrity endorsements don't have to break the bank, either. Especially for digital experiences that don't require travel, etc. Consider working with a celebrity who resonates with your target audience. “I have found in my experience leading marketing teams that nostalgia is more powerful an emotion than fame,” he said.
This goes to show how strategic alliances can have industry-wide implications.
- Slack with Conan O’Brien
Slack’s partnership with the comedic icon Conan O’Brien is perhaps one of the most creative marketing campaigns in the world of SaaS. The enterprise communication platform recently announced a collaboration with O’Brien to solidify its vision of building a productive and healthy virtual working atmosphere.
Equipped with a series of custom Slack emojis, teams can now use the late-night host’s expressions and catchphrases as GIFs to inject humor into conversations and strengthen team bonds. It's often said that the secret to an engaging and united team lies in our ability to foster camaraderie and make collaboration frictionless. That’s exactly what Slack set out to accomplish with this partnership.
As remote work becomes the norm, SaaS marketers and team leaders have had a hard time juggling responsibilities while trying to keep up morale. Slack’s team grabbed this opportunity and time this collaboration in a way that separated them from the competition and established the platform as a go-to communications solution.
The result? More and more companies signed up their teams for Slack thanks to this USP in the hopes of building a vibrant workplace culture.
- Salesforce with Matthew McConaughey
Salesforce’s ongoing collaboration with acclaimed actor Matthew McConaughey might just be the most popular SaaS-celebrity partnership in recent times. The enterprise CRM solutions platform hired McConaughey as a spokesperson for their marketing campaign to promote their brands and products.
What led to this unlikely partnership? The answer lies in the power of creative direction and storytelling, according to the brand. McConaughey’s ability to captivate the audience with his charisma, combined with Salesforce’s advanced suite of tools, has led to an ultra-successful campaign.
With a reported $10 million annual paycheck, Salesforce’s goal of building stronger customer relationships that transcend the transactional nature of sales has led to more authentic engagement and trust between the business and its consumers. Not to mention McConaughey’s huge fan base that added credibility to Salesforce’s products and molded a more positive public perception of the brand.
While this has come at the cost of some controversy (i.e. thousands of layoffs), there is no doubt the partnership is going strong and has earned both the brand and the actor a lot of visibility and money.
What brands need to consider before hiring a celebrity partner
While we’ve established the benefits of working with a celebrity on your next campaign to see impressive results, there is undeniably much to be considered before jumping into contract signing and advertisement writing. Here are 6 key points to keep in mind before you hire a celeb:
Perhaps the most important discussion point is the relevance of the celebrity to the brand. Ideally, you want to work with a celebrity whose public image and moral upstanding are somewhat aligned with your brand’s values and message. When there is a natural synergy between the two, both you and your audience will find it much easier to build a relationship with the celebrity in association with your products and/or services.
Your celebrity’s fan base won’t necessarily sync with your target audience, but it’s still important to consider the demographics and platforms you wish to target with a high-profile collaboration. A substantial and highly-engaged social media following often generates more traffic and draws more attention to your brand, helping make more people aware of your partnership. Samsung’s collaboration with the popular K-pop band BTS, for example, is a super-successful example that goes to show the power of a global fanbase and the influence of choosing the right celebrities.
- Credibility and Trust
Your chosen celebrity’s reputation and credibility directly translate into your brand’s reputation and credibility too. Consumers expect authenticity from the brands they associate with, so naturally you should try and avoid potential backlash or controversies. This was recently witnessed in Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi commercial, which received scrutiny for trivializing social justice movements.
There is no formula for avoiding negative publicity when working with a celebrity, but adding a risk assessment can help you see the consumers’ perspective and make a positive impact.
It can be very tempting to go for the most highly-rated celebrities for your marketing campaign, but weighing up your brand’s budget with the expected ROI of the campaign is a non-negotiable step. From one-off advertising deals to bartering equity in exchange for exposure, there is no shortage of creative tactics you can employ. The ultimate goal of a celebrity partnership is, like any other, a positive return on investment in the long run.
- Legal Consideration
Before committing to a celebrity endorsement, you should be making sure that you have all the legal rights to use the material on hand for your benefit. The celebrity’s name, images, and even likeness in marketing materials are sensitive information, and any gaps in the contract can end in huge losses.
Clear contracts and agreements not only protect the celebrity’s interests but also ensure that they fulfill all their obligations under the endorsement deal. This is becoming even more important as we see ‘deep fakes’ of celebrities being used for commercial benefit without permission, leading to millions of dollars being charged to the businesses in damages.
- Creative Direction
Brands that work closely with the celebrity to ensure that the campaign’s creative direction aligns with both parties see the brand’s impact reach maximum potential. Like in the case of Beyoncé x Pepsi, taking in the celebrity’s feedback helped the soda company make their creatives more engaging and effective, leading to huge boosts in sales too.
Enterprise companies and modern influencer marketing
Gone are the days when you could post a picture on Instagram with a celebrity holding your product (or using your service) and watch the revenue charts climb up. Consumers today crave authentic and imperfect celebrity endorsements, wanting to see themselves in every interaction and trend.
But this immunity to surface-level celebrity coloring is good news for brands. You now have the opportunity to think outside the box and craft detailed experiences by leveraging the celebrity’s beauty and brain. Using celebrities as influencers may be old news, but the fact that this now extends to the enterprise SaaS space definitely isn’t.
Well-planned celebrity partnerships are catalysts to better brand awareness, higher profit margins, and long-term success—a trend that we suspect won’t be going away any time soon.