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3 times celebrities failed at product placement: The rise of influencer marketing
March 10, 2023

We learnt this week where Gary Lineker stands on the government’s plans to manage what it sees as a crisis of small boats crossing the channel from France. The Match of the Day presenter compared the policy outlined by home secretary Suella Braverman with what happened in Nazi Germany. “This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?” said Lineker.

Cue the inevitable furore as commentators and politicians condemned him or praised his comments. At Communicate Media, we provide Media Training for celebrities and social media influencers, so we were particularly interested in this story.

Celebrity Endorsements in the Media

Celebrity endorsements go back decades and even centuries. Recently Billie Eilish joined a list of stars to promote Nike products while Gucci has hired Harry Styles, and Ed Sheeran has produced a soundtrack for the Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet games. Over the last few years, celebrity endorsements have evolved into influencer marketing. In both cases, the opportunities for celebrities to do something that embarrasses the brand and the organisation they’re working for or being paid to endorse are – worryingly – endless.

Here are three fa(il)mous times celebrities did not stick to the script with their brand deals:

  1. Basketball player Lebron James tweeted about his Samsung phone erasing its entire contents. “One of the sickest feelings that I’ve ever had in my life,” he tweeted. We all know the feeling – except that James was the face of Samsung at the time. It’s not just what celebrities say.
  2. David Beckham signed a $6 million, four-year contract to promote Brylcreem, but halfway through the agreement, he shaved his head.
  3. Helena Bonham-Carter famously commented on her recruitment as the face of Yardley cosmetics by admitting: “I don’t know why Yardley chose me; I don’t wear much makeup.” Oops.

Training Media Influencers

We provide Media Training workshops for influencers to help them communicate their messages and develop their brands. We ensure that when they speak to the media – conventional or social – they work with companies to market products in a way that produces positive coverage and helps them avoid making mistakes or creating controversy where they don’t want it.

We also work regularly with a wide variety of brands and their celebrity fans and supporters to help those famous names do media interviews and deliver the outcomes and objectives of marketers effectively.

Media Training for Marketers

How can marketers ensure their brand ambassadors say the right thing, promote the brand, and not embarrass them? We provide media training courses for marketing consultancies and public relations companies to identify problematic or unhelpful angles journalists might take when interviewing a celebrity supporter. We do the same for charities, by the way. We then conduct a range of role-play realistic role-play interviews with the brand ambassador or celebrity supporter, helping them find the words and phrases they need to promote the brand in a way that sounds authentic and believable.

Our trainers – many of whom have conducted celebrity interviews as journalists – also enable big names to develop stories, examples and anecdotes they can use in these interviews. Very importantly, we help them and their teams to identify difficult or controversial subjects. Then we provide them with words, phrases and techniques to help them to move away from these subjects and back onto their key messages.

Media Training in London

Public relations consultants and marketing professionals often bring us in to provide a fresh perspective and realistic journalistic insights to bear on the celebrity endorsement. We can help brand ambassadors feel more comfortable doing media interviews, with a better sense of what they want to say and how they will maintain control of the interview. During our media training workshops for celebrities and influencers, we can help them to convert those marketing messages into the kind of content that works well for journalists.

We also provide support for marketers and public relations consultants handling a particular celebrity endorsement so that if they speak to journalists to manage enquiries or to do on-the-record interviews from sales, they are well placed to keep the interview on track. Alongside focusing on key positives message, this means preparing for any difficult or controversial questions and ensuring that the celebrity endorsement goes well overall.

The Growth of Influencer Marketing

Celebrities will continue to endorse products, and the use of influencers, although evolving, seems set to grow. Using media training for celebrities and influencers to ensure that they and the marketing teams are well prepared for media interviews help ensure that feet on not put in mouths and the campaign goes well.

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