Hiring Celebrities in Cause Marketing

One of the coins of the realm in cause marketing is the use of celebrities. The right celebrity, used well, can draw attention to your cause marketing campaign, lend it legitimacy, bring new resources to bear, and more.

You can try and recruit celebrities yourself, or, for a fee, you can use a matching service.

One such service provider is Limelight Media, founded by Wendy Dutwin. That's her on the left. In the cause marketing space Limelight Media has worked on programs such as Hilary Swank with Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program; Brooke Shields with Tupperware's Chain of Confidence initiative; and Tim Gunn’s Addressing Psoriasis campaign.

I put a few questions to Wendy on how her service works:

1). What can a sponsor/cause legitimately ask a celebrity to do in a cause marketing effort?
It really depends on the scope of the campaign. If it’s PR initiative only, typically a contract between a brand and a celebrity will include a certain number of TV & Print Interviews, Event attendance, presence on the Web site for a specific amount of time and/or Twitter “Tweets” about the campaign. Advertising elements can change the scope to include print and TV ads, PSAs, etc. However, every program has different elements that should be considered and no one deal is like the other. Each one is constructed uniquely to the needs of the client and what their budget can allow.

2). What shouldn't a sponsor/cause ask a celebrity to do?
A celebrity should not be asked to do anything outside of the mutually agreed upon contract. There is obviously a long list of things that celebrities shouldn’t be asked to do, but if I had to pick one I would suggest that the celebrity is not asked about personal issues or their family in interviews (unless of course they are tied to the cause and it this discussion topic was agreed upon before).

3). How does Limelight ensure a good match between the cause/sponsor and the celebrity?
There are many different factors to determine how I offer recommendations for a celebrity. As for cause marketing programs, it obviously helps if the celebrity has a personal tie to the cause allowing the partnership to be a more natural fit. Since the celebrity is going to represent the brand, it’s imperative that the personality and reputation of the celebrity should be in synch with the brand’s image. Making sure the celebrity is attractive to the media, but that they haven’t done a lot of press already which could hinder the results of the cause’s campaign is something we always look at carefully. That’s a fine line of balance that I see many campaigns miss because they aren’t working with someone tapped into that information. Finally, I always have my fingers on the pulse of who is working on what and who is looking for a possible partnership. Celebrities have busy schedules so it’s important to gauge their availability and, of course, their interest in a possible program.

4). If the celebrity comes to a charity or sponsor event well away from California or New York what expenses is the charity/sponsor likely to incur?
The charity will be responsible for air travel, on-the-ground transportation, hotel and food. Always allow cushion for unexpected expenses. When I work with clients, I always give them ballpark figures to budget separately for this in advance.

5). What are the typical terms of an agreement with a celebrity?
Terms will include spokesperson fee, interview or event attendance parameters, length of time for the campaign and any required exclusivity in a certain category.

6). What guarantees does the sponsor/cause have that the celebrity will show up?
A legally binding contract will guarantee that the celebrity is expected to attend the event.

7). What happens if during the time of engagement the celebrity does something that would embarrass the sponsor/charity? What recourse is there?
I always recommend a media training session facilitated by a professional media trainer to prepare spokespeople for their role at events and interviews. This is something that we always contract in our agreements with talent and it’s non-negotiable. If there is any fear that the celebrity spokesperson may act inappropriately, then they may not be the right fit. We also include in our contracts what’s called a Morals Clause, but there are limits to what can be included in that. There may be legal recourse if they did not represent the brand as outlined in the contract.

8). What if adding the celebrity to the campaign doesn't generate the results the sponsor/cause was looking for?
The media is a very uncontrollable beast, but that being said, based on budget parameters and services a company like mine will always try to find a fit that will generate media. We will work with you in advance to counsel on realistic expectations with what we’re working with and the best way to maximize results. If the spokesperson doesn't generate results, it’s important to look at the different factors that were occurring within the campaign and in the news media at the time. There are many factors that can alter coverage including breaking news and or the strength/weakness of the media campaign. The first part is something that cannot be controlled, unfortunately. The second part is something that can with the right strategy and planning in advance.

9). How about a story or two of a celebrity or two that turned out to be a win for everyone?
We like to think that all of our programs are a win for everyone, but if I had to select one I would say the Hillary Swank partnership with Pantene’s Beautiful Length’s program. We kicked off the campaign with a spot on Oprah with Oprah cutting off Hillary’s pony tail for donation. It doesn’t get better than that for the celebrity or the brand!

10). Can a cause ever ask a celebrity to do something gratis?
No, I would not recommend asking a celebrity to do something for free. While celebrities will donate their time for PSAs or relief telethons, this is often a favor to another celebrity or in a time of crisis and the celebrity feels driven to help. Expect a celebrity to be financially compensated for their time and association of their own brand with yours.

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