In a country where performance fees and royalties generate minimal earnings for celebrities, corporate endorsements are a major source of sustainable income. These deals however remain very elusive for the average Kenyan celeb owing to a myriad of factors. It is no secret that some corporates don’t see the value of investing in celebrities; some due to an old school thinking, others due to bad previous experiences.
Ultimately an endorsement is a business decision on the part of the company, and the number one question for them is return on investment.
If an endorsement doesn’t result in the growth of a company’s brand or sales figures then it simply doesn’t make business sense and the board will not approve for a renewal. Yet there are those who have maintained their deals for years now, and keep growing stronger. Catherine Kamau aka Selina has been the face of Harpic, the popular toilet bowl cleaner brand for about five years now. The deal has transformed her life drastically not only giving her a steady healthy pay check but also increasing her profile in the industry.
“The deal has really given me a lot of exposure; most of the shoots are out of the country so I have travelled a lot,” she explains. “They had four or so celebrities before me but I don’t know why they stayed with me, maybe it’s just favour with God.”
Over the years Catherine has learnt the power of being humble and professional because celebrities who let the fame get into their head risk losing their deals. According to her, an endorsement is a job just like any other; one has to keep time, honour their contractual obligations and maintain a good relationship with their client.
However, too many celebrities don’t take their deals seriously and end up losing them. She also explains that finding a client who gives you the freedom to grow your individual brand also contributes to that longevity. The continued engagement is a testament that the symbiotic relationship between client and brand has worked well for both of them.
Relevance is another key element of a successful relationship between a brand and a celebrity; an awkward miss match never works well for either the brand or the celebrity. For this to work, the celebrity in question must resonate with the target market that the brand/product is trying to access.
“You must believe in the product you are endorsing, it’s very hard to sell something that you don’t believe in,” she explains. “As performers we also need to develop brands that resonate with the common man so companies will find value in investing in us.”
Janet Mbugua has had a very successful tenure as Lifebuoy’s ambassador. She has represented the brand on television, print, digital and on various ground activations. Though she has done it for a while now, her role seems to have moved up a notch after leaving her television job.
“I truly enjoy working with the brand, its social mission around helping children reach the age of five is close to my heart as a mother and it’s one of the best products out there too. In every job, professionalism and having a good rapport as a team is of utmost importance. I feel like part of the team and they themselves are truly professional and passionate. We understand each other well and have the same goals,” she says.
Janet also reiterates the importance of maintaining professional conduct when dealing with the client.
“It’s important that you have to be present, creative and a team player. And while there is a calendar outlining certain duties, go over and above. Be professional, stay humble and keep learning. Ask when you’re not sure and treat people well,” she told Buzz.
For Janet, the selection process is an integral part of her success, she picks brands that are in line with her passions. Having taken a break from the media to pursue other interests she is no stranger to the sacrifices that celebrities have to make sometimes to stay real to what they believe in.
Celebrity chef Ali Mandhry has worked with several brands including Chevrolet and Kericho Gold Tea. For him having a passion for the brand you represent is an important component. He takes personal responsibility for the products he represents and goes out of the way to find out if the brand is selling. In all the campaigns he participates in, he works hard to educate and expose the public to the brand.
LOYALTY TO BRAND
He says: “Loyalty to a brand is the return ticket to an endorsement. When companies see the commitment that you put into representing them they are likely to give you another chance.”
When it comes to dealing with his clients, Chef Ali always places relationship before the pay check. He recognises that the branding world is a very small world so people talk and share experiences. Messing one brand could spell doom for a celebrity, while executing a job flawlessly will open more doors for you. He also contends that a good rapport with a company also makes it easier for them to trust you with other brands in their group of companies or in case of a re-brand.
“Although I always push for the best deal, it’s never about the money for me,” he admits. “Building a relationship with your client is very important. It’s better to forfeit payment when the campaign is not effective than to lose a client forever.”
Faki Lawi is a showbiz professional with extensive experience in both events and talent management. According to him, having representation at the negotiating phase of the contract is important. A good agency, he argues, would know what type of deals are out there, their valuation and the nitty-gritty of the deals. Having representation will ensure the brand’s clients and celebrity’s brands complement each other. This they do by ensuring the artiste is not pushed to execute something that is not in line with his/her brand.
A good agency can find more to squeeze out of the client, on behalf of the artiste, over and above what the client had in mind.
“It is key that the celebrity does not lose their essence in the deal, they must ensure that their brands are aligned and complimentary. If a celebrity has been approached by a brand, they should not fear to point out anything that they feel would devalue their own brand.
I’ve seen instances where celebrities go in with their counter-proposal of what they feel would work best, complimentary for both celebrity and brand, and not only did the celebrity make more money from the deal, but even the client’s brand had a more sensible execution of their objectives,” he says.
It is a foregone conclusion that endorsements are where the pay check is. The celebrities who continue to attract and maintain these deals will definitely continue to laugh all the way to the bank.