Bookmark Entertainment’s CEO Jonathan Schenker explains how celebrity marketing agencies can affect a lot of change in Asian advertising markets.
UNDENIABLE ROI, WHEN DONE RIGHT
Some deals are worth every bit of sweat that goes into closing them. In 1996, Tiger Woods, now the world’s foremost golf professional, then a rising young star, signs a 5-year, $40 million endorsement deal with Nike Golf. Four years and $50 million dollars of profit for Nike Golf later, Woods renegotiates his contract and got $105 million for a 5-year extension. The endorsement continues further than that. According to the results of a research published in Marketing Science, Nike made an additional profit of $103 million between 2000 and 2010 directly as a result of Woods’ endorsement alone.
Under the same premise, 50 Cent, through heavy involvement with the brand and the company, managed to help Vitamin Water manufacturer Glaceau get enough momentum for the company to be noticed by Coca-Cola who bought the company for $4.1 billion, and in India, Bollywood superstar Amir Khan’s endorsement deal with Titan Watches helped the company achieve a growth of 52% in value, and 45% in sales volume.
THE NEXT BOOM
Celebrity endorsement is an established advertising practice, and it works all over the world. The power of someone who sells millions of albums, or whose face is seen on big screens by millions of people, cannot be denied. According to Jonathan Schenker, an executive of Bookmark Entertainment, companies in the emerging economies in Asia, might be ground zero of the next boom of celebrity endorsement.
“The number of Asian brands taking their business internationally is growing on monthly basis, resulting in the need for either a complete rebrand or adaptation into the global, western marketplace”, Schenker says, and adds that “celebrity endorsement is one of the most efficient marketing when it comes to creating clear differentiation, global appeal as well as increase credibility in a matter of months”.
Schenker, a veteran in the field of talent procurement and event organization, founded Bookmark Entertainment in 2008. With the executive team of David Nitzani and Peter Schafer, the company has built a portfolio which includes procurement of some of the most recognizable faces in the entertainment industry including Leo Messi, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna and Lady Gaga.
A SINGLE CORE DECISION
In recent years, Bookmark has developed a keen interest in the emerging markets in Asia, but not only because the opportunities these growing economies provide. The draw is also in the unique challenges they present:
“We anticipate this demand to grow in the foreseen future not only due to the globalization of Asian brands but also since it seems that celebrity endorsement has become so popular in countries such as China that overlapping shilling is causing mass confusion”, Schenker explains. “The paradox of this is that the hot celebrity of the moment can be engaged into numerous, simultaneous endorsements, which appears to have muddled the message and confuse consumers. The end-result is a marketplace so flooded with the same familiar faces that, at the end of the day, it leaves consumers unable to recall which brand is endorsed by which celebrity”.
The overlapping celebrity endorsements in China Schenker mentions have been well publicized. Jolin Cai, a singer and actress, is famous for endorsing 14 brands in the same time, including Levis and McDonalds. Another example is Liu Xiang, a hurdler with much star capital in China, who has made enough endorsements to make a top 10 list of them. However, overusing the most popular face of the moment is not the only obstacle companies form emerging markets might face when getting into celebrity endorsement.
The road to finding a suitable celebrity for a brand or a corporation is never without peril, especially in the age of social media where information is spread at astonishing speed. There is always the chance that celebrity’s behavior or lifestyle might put a dent on the reputation of the brand they are indorsing. Michael Phelps was dropped by Kellogg after his private pictures stirred up a controversy. Christian Dior had to remove all of its advertisements featuring Sharon Stone from the Chinese market in 2008 after the actress reacted to a catastrophic earthquake with much insensitivity. According to Schenker, “choosing the right talent is the single most important factor of any endorsement deal, and mistakes can easily be made if decisions aren’t made following a clear, objective assessment of the specific situation.”
To get to Western talent, brands and corporations on the emerging markets might have to work extensively to build the contacts necessary to make things happen, which is where established talent procurement agencies get to make all the difference. However, the value of these agencies stretches beyond simply having the right contacts. Their expertise extends to understanding the range of advertising activities for which celebrities can be used. According to Schenker, budget isn’t the primary limiting factor in celebrity usability, which goes well beyond hiring them as spokespersons. It’s the creativity, or lack thereof, which imposes the major obstacles:
“An additional, popular function includes engaging a celebrity to attend an event, which obviously has a big impact on the PR efforts conducted in relation to the event, and can turn a boring launch party to something everyone is speaking about. Other functions may include securing a show by a performing-talent, or a speaking engagement by a well-known politician or entrepreneur for your corporate or public event. More recently, certain celebrities have become more open to social media endorsement, such as sponsored tweets and promoted Facebook posts, as well as joint ventures which include capital investment or long-term branding engagements.”
Because celebrity endorsement deals can get expensive, every bit of care added into the processes of negotiation and realization is welcome. Good communication is of the outmost importance. The willingness of a talent procurement agency to go the extra mile is close behind. Just how long this extra mile can be, Schenker explains:
“We accompany clients throughout the deal process and take care of the entire operation surrounding the production of the relevant materials. We liaise with the talent’s team over the approval process, assist client with drafting the right commercial agreement, arranging the logistics of talent’s arrival to the set, including flights and hospitality and guiding the production company, director and other crew members as to how the celebrity expects things to be handled”.
GETTING THE DEAL DONE
It is certain that star power can be used to change or influence people and raise brand awareness. It is also certain that companies on the emerging Asian markets have yet to become as effective at it as the companies in the United States or Europe. It all comes down to making the deals that are worth the sweat. And using talent procurement agencies might be the best way to do it because, as Jonathan Schenker says, “when we pick up the phone and present an opportunity, the other side listens and typically does everything within their power to make the deal happen”.