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A few weeks ago I had the privilege of being a guest on one of my good friend’s show talking all things pop culture and celebrity endorsements. I felt the interview was very insightful for his listeners, and I thought I should share a transcript with you guys.

Taylor Swift stars in a Diet Coke ad in 2014

Vincent: Celebrity brand endorsements have become quite pivotal in a celebrity’s “ life span”. From a professional perspective, what are brand endorsements and how has this concept influenced pop culture?

Zoe: A brand endorsement is a marketing strategy that brands adopt as a means of attracting and reaching a wider audience through collaborating with a well known personality. Through these partnerships, brands are able to leverage a particular celebrity’s popularity by using them as a mouthpiece to communicate key brand messages to their fan base.

Serena Williams for Nike

Zoe: Celebrity endorsements have become a huge contributor to the pop culture landscape. Nowadays, the concept of “celebrity” is no longer measured by the amount of hit singles or movies one possesses, the amount of endorsements or partnerships a celebrity has is what counts the most. That is the real contributor to their net worth and test of their influence.

A good example of this is someone like Rihanna. What has made her a pop icon is not just her music, she continues to be the most influential pop figure because of her endorsements with Puma, Manolo, Chopard, Dior and her various accessories and perfume lines.

Rihanna for her Manolo Blahnik final collaboration, So Stoned

Vincent: What qualifies/verifies a celebrity to endorse a brand?

Zoe: As someone who has worked with celebrities who have signed the biggest deals and also worked with brands that sign on celebrities to represent them, I can safely say it takes a lot. I’m going to mention 5 steps I believe a celebrity should follow in order to attract brands:

  1. Know your brand

    Knowing brand means you are aware of what your core offering is (singer/dj/actor/dancer). This also means you are aware of your passion points, for example (TV personality Boity – Fashion: denim & jumpsuits, Dj Zinhle – watches & accessories, TV Presenter – Bonang – beauty & fashion or a Minnie Dhlamini who will say she is passionate about sport).

  2. Invest in your brand

    Most people expect to go to sleep and wake up with flourishing brands, but this is not the case. Great brands take effort, planning, strategizing and most definitely some form of monetary investment. Prioritise what you spend your money on.

  3. Communicate your brand

    Knowing your brand is great, but what counts the most is how you communicate it with your audience. If a beauty brand doesn’t know that you’re into lipstick or eye-shadow, they won’t remember to consider you when they need ambassadors for a new lipstick range.

  4. Your brand is your equity

    Here’s some behind-the-scenes insight, celebrities don’t make most of their money through acting gigs or album sales, but through partnerships with brands and endorsements. Sadly, those contracts come with having an established brand. If you’re a celebrity, you have to take your brand seriously, just as much as you do your day job.

  5. Be consistent

    Consistency doesn’t need to be explained. Be consistent.

Boity for Sissy Boy’s denim campaign

Vincent: Our industry is heavily influenced by the US. What have been the best Celeb endorsements/partnerships to come out of Hollywood in the past 10 years and what could we learn from that as an industry that is trying to grow?

Zoe: Best is subjective, so I will mention a few collaborations that have stood out to me because they were lucrative, well executed and unexpected.

  1. Former boxing champion George Foreman  & Spectrum Brand collaborated to launch a fat-reducing meat griller, one of the bestselling infomercial products of all time. Foreman made an estimated $137 million when he was later bought out of his royalties deal. Fun Fact: This endorsement was originally meant for Hulk Hogan, who turned it down to represent one of those Twister appliances.

  1. Michael Jordan, LeBron James & Nike – The most lucrative endorsement by athletes. Analysts are estimating $50 billion in revenue for the 2020 fiscal for the Jordan sneakers. LeBron’s reported lifetime deal is said to be in the billion range.

  1. Beyonce & Pepsi deal worth $50million – In 2012, singer Beyoncé once again  teamed up with Pepsi for a multi-faceted branding deal to coincide with her performance during the Super Bowl 2013 Halftime Show, of which Pepsi was a presenting sponsor. Brilliant execution of a campaign and full leverage of a celebrity endorsement by Pepsi.

  1. Kim Kardashian & Glo Mobile – This partnership saw Kim Kardashian launch her own game, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. Since its June 2014 launch, the game has been downloaded 45 million times and generated $160 million in revenue. Kim is estimated to have pocketed $45 million from it over that period, earning her the “Mobile Mogul” title from FORBES.

  1. Bonang & Revlon – In what was deemed a pioneering move for any African celebrity, Revlon Cosmetics SA announced their first Brand Ambassador, making Bonang Matheba the first to do so for any country outside of the US. Following the 2013 announcement, the brand grew in revenue and social currency in SA, thanks to their loving partnership with SA’s media darling, Queen B*. I’m not at liberty to say how much she was paid when she renewed her contact with Revlon SA in 2015, but I can confirm that Bonang is very OK 🙂

Vincent: The industry has evolved immensely into the digital era. How is social media influencing the concept of celebrity brand endorsements?

Zoe: Everything is evolving because of this digital age we live in. PR has evolved, not everything is as traditional as it used to be, the Department of Home Affairs also had to evolve, brand endorsements have also been affected.

Brand endorsements no longer require an “ambassador” to be a mainstream celebrity. This change is due to the undeniable fact that social media has turned everyday people into celebrities.

Here are the effects:

  1. Given birth to the influencer.
  2. More accessible. Anyone can become a brand ambassador.
  3. Unearthed a new revenue stream for digital savvy people.
Fashion Photographer Trevor Stuurman for Superga

Vincent: Take us through the business of celebrity endorsements. For budding celebrities, what should one learn going into this business?

Zoe: A lot happens behind-the-scenes in this business. I can promise you that not all that glitters is gold. A lot of people look at celebrities that are making it and breaking bank, but they don’t realize that a lot of work goes into it. Most celebrities hire teams that help position them in a certain way that appeals to brands, hence they are able to make money beyond bookings.

Here are my tips:

  1. Befriend brands that you like.
  2. Put yourself out there. No brand wants to pay a shy and reserved celebrity.
  3. Be engaging. Brands look for social media engagement and interaction.
  4. Be authentically you. Fluff can be replicated, but no one can replicate you. Brands are looking for authenticity in the celebrities they align with.
Nomzamo as the face of Neutrogena SA

Vincent: What are some of the most unlikely partnerships you have come across? Locally and internationally.


Tumi from the Volume/Stogie T and Chivas – Tumi doesn’t consume alcohol if I’m not mistaken. I can’t take him selling me alcohol seriously.

Tumi for Chivas Regal

Lira & Johny Walker – This was a brand misfit for me. I doubt Lira helped Johny Walker acquire a new market, and I doubt Lira consumed the brand backstage while on tour. If that is the case, then they should have never gone into this partnership.

Lira at the announcement of her Johny Walker campaign

Justin Bieber & Nicole by OPI – This was both weird and brilliant at the same time. Weird because Bieber was a teenage boy at the time, but brilliant because he had the hearts of every teenage girl on this planet who would buy anything he sells. In 2011, the One Less Lonely Girl nail polish range sold 1 million bottles in a month.

Justin Bieber for Nicole by OPI
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