Opinion

Celebrity brand ambassadors? The future is celebrity brand investors

Once upon a time it was businesses that paid celebrities to be ambassadors for their brands. Now, as typified by Andy Murray’s recent investments through Seedrs, we are beginning to see the money flow the other way.

But is this a simple case of celebrities making personal investments, which would be nothing new, or are we seeing the birth of the ‘celebrity brand investor’?

Crowdfunding has become an increasingly popular source of funding, with around $34.4 billion being invested in 2015. There are various types of crowdfunding, such as reward or lending models, but what we are concerning ourselves with here is equity model crowdfunding.

Celebrities endorsing brands is pretty common fare these days. In fact, it is a practise that can be traced back to 1950 when Bob Hope endorsed American Express, and probably further back than that. Increasing in popularity through the years, businesses have sought celebrities that they can align their brand and therefore products or service with.

These brand ambassadors have varying degrees of success, with the partnership of Nike and Michael Jordan probably being one of the most long-lasting and well-known brand ambassador roles, although there are many more we could name such as David Beckham and Adidas, George Clooney and Nespresso, Kate Moss and Calvin Klein, Usain Bolt and Puma. The list goes on.

However, if things go wrong and maybe the celebrity becomes embroiled in controversy, don’t expect many brands to hang around for too long, e.g. Maria Sharapova and Nike / Tag Heuer / Porsche.

 

Whatever the success of these partnerships, the common factor is that these celebrities are paid by the business to endorse the brand as ambassadors.

Now crowdfunding is commonly accepted to have been quite the disruptive influence on traditional financing models. With these recent further equity investments that have been made by Andy Murray to small UK businesses, and importantly the public nature of these investments, are we seeing the birth of the celebrity brand investor?

 

In this instance, the flow of money has changed direction. The money is now going from the celebrity to the business, but the celebrity endorsement factor remains from the more traditional brand ambassador roles.

In 2013 I undertook primary research that discovered that when contributing to a crowdfunding campaign many people are not only funding a business or project, but are aligning themselves with that business or project. In considering ‘celebrity brand investors’, can we suggest that the celebrity is doing much the same – not only investing money but aligning themselves with the business and brand, to become a ‘celebrity brand investor’? And might the celebrity’s alignment with the business shape our view of the business and brand in a similar way to brand ambassadors?

Crowdfunding is a fascinating topic that is changing the way people can interact with businesses, and the development of the ‘celebrity brand investor’ could well add another layer to how this new model might reshape brand.

Image © Carine06

 

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