Behind The Scenes: Working With Celebrities on Endorsement Deals

What is it like to work with Chinese celebrities on endorsement deals? Let’s sneak into a brand company to find out the fundamental work process of celebrity endorsement deals from the research stage to the effectiveness measurement stage.

Celebrity Research

Before contacting any celebrity, a brand must work on extensive research from various perspectives to fulfill its ultimate purpose and target. There are 2 main purposes of hiring celebrities: driving sales and branding.

The criteria to select a celebrity are not that strict if the main purpose is driving sales. Brands’ utmost attention is fans’ money and the celebrity’s ability to drive sales in certain consumer segments. FMCG* brands are the most popular with this practice since their products are sold quickly at relatively low costs. 

Xiao Zhan for 开小灶 and Wang Yibo for Oishi. Both are FMCG brands.

*FMCG (Fast-moving consumer goods): packaged foods, beverages, toiletries, candies, cosmetics, etc.

Selecting a celebrity to build brand image is much tougher. Besides a celebrity’s commercial value, his/ her characteristics and reputations must match the image that the brand wants to build. The celebrity must have a great impact on the brand’s target consumers, and his/her development path should be aligned with the brand’s future plan. 

Chen Kun for MontBlanc and Zhang Ziyi for Chopard, both represent the images of mature, experienced and successful man and woman. They have great influence to successful men and women who are interested in taking care of their appearances.
Chen Kun for MontBlanc and Zhang Ziyi for Chopard, both represent the images of mature, experienced, and successful men and women. They have a great influence on successful men and women who are taking good care of their appearances.

The research could be influenced by the relationships of industry insiders and their words of mouth. Besides that, other data sources are usually collected through social listening tools which crawl the number of mentions on social media and analyze audiences’ opinions towards celebrities.

Kris Wu and Virgil Abloh – Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton‘s men’s wear

In order to attract commercial deals, many celebrity teams and companies use marketing accounts (yxh) to manipulate public opinions and water army to inflate the celebrity’s data. Aware of this practice, brands have their own techniques to remove data noise and avoid manipulation to a certain extent. 

Negotiation and Contract Signing

After finalizing the selected celebrity, there will be the longest and most cumbersome step: negotiation and contract signing. This step takes the least time and effort to write down but the most to execute in real life.

Many stakeholders will be involved in this complicated process of negotiation to finalize the contract: the brand, the planning or influencer agencies, the celebrity studio/ celebrity management company, and then the celebrity. 

The brand can either contact the celebrity team directly or contact through a planning/ influencer agency. This planning/ influencer agency could support the brand in selecting a suitable celebrity right from the research stage.

According to T Magazine China, the cooperation between Wang Junkai and Lexus China took almost 3 years to negotiate.

The contract is mainly the scope of work of the celebrity and the payment terms. Payment will be made 3-4 times a year on average.

The scope of work is varied based on levels of celebrity endorsement. In general, there are 3 levels of celebrity endorsement:

  • Spokesperson/ Ambassador
  • Macro-Influencers (Brand friends)
  • Micro-Influencers (No title)

The levels are presented through titles granted to celebrities whom brands are partnering with. This is detailed in What you need to know about Celebrity Endorsement in China

Commercial Photo Shoot

After finalizing the contract, the brand will work together with the celebrity and his/her company to plan the concept and timeline. 

Booking a celebrity for a photoshoot means that the brand is most likely to book his/ her whole team including a stylist, makeup artist, assistant, etc. If the scope of work comprises videos or performances, the brand also has to pay the band, DJ, dancers, etc. suggested by the celebrity. The rates will be calculated by day, with around 14 hours of working per day on average.

Roy Wang is usually accompanied by his stylist – Min Rui in various commercial photoshoots. Credit to: Min Rui‘s IG

After photo shooting, there will be a post-production step. The whole process from booking to delivering the final product usually takes about 1 month. There longest could take 2 – 4 months while the shortest is about 1 – 2 weeks.

Celebrity’s Effectiveness Measurement

Every brand has tools to measure the celebrity’s impact on the brand, and the effectiveness of investment on the endorsement deal. Sales and revenue are obviously the most important data to measure the deal’s effectiveness.

Besides that, the influence of the celebrity on brand awareness and brand image is measured via social listening. This social data is an important part of fandom KPIs that fans work hard to achieve, with the aim to increase their idols’ data and commercial values, eventually boosting their idols’ negotiating power in later deals and contract renewals.

Li Yifeng has been the spokesperson of OPPO China since 2014.

However, fans-generated data only reflects a small part of the big picture. Fans are only a small group compared to the masses who buy the products. With industry experience, and monthly/ quarterly researches, brands best understand whom their products are sold to, where their consumers are, what their buying behaviors are, and the influence of celebrities on brands’ performances.

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