In July, tennis star Roger Federer made the surprise switch from Nike to UNIQLO. A longtime Nike ambassador, Federer’s move surprised his fans, and threw the sports sponsorship world for a loop.
As one of the world’s most dominant and famous athletes, it’s no wonder the Federer’s move dominated the discussion about brand ambassadors. But his move is just the most recent in a rapidly changing landscape of celebrity endorsers. What is driving this trend?
We looked at the social conversation about celebrity brand ambassadors to try to understand the impact of a celebrity on a brand, and how the conversation has changed over the years.
The rise of celebrity brand ambassadors
Every year, more and more consumers discuss celebrity brand ambassadors. Indeed, the social conversation has grown by more than 10 times since 2010. Clearly, these types of partnerships are resonating with consumers, generating more buzz year after year. Seven months into 2018, the celebrity brand ambassadors conversation has already surpassed last year’s total.
Who are the top celebrities and brands driving the conversation to such high levels?
Who’s leading the pack?
Purchase Intent Topic Wheel
While it is great for a brand’s celebrity partnership to be discussed on social, does it translate to purchases? The topic wheel indicates that effective campaigns, like Gigi Hadid’s partnership with Tommy Hilfiger, can actually lead to sales.
Social’s favorite (and least favorite) brand ambassadors
However, the volume a celebrity brand ambassador receives is not the only thing that matters. Audience reach may be one thing, but sentiment is another. A widely panned celebrity brand ambassador can do more damage to the brand than good.
Kylie Jenner, who enjoyed the highest share of voice among the top celebrity brand ambassadors, also suffers from the highest negative sentiment. When Puma appointed her as model for their apparel campaigns, the backlash was swift. A non-athlete and reality TV star with plastic surgery should not front a sportswear brand, consumers argued.
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This cunt is the reason I do not buy PUMA anymore. I can´t believe you use the plastic surgery ambassador as your ambassador. #Fail
— Chamus (@ChamanaOficial) April 5, 2017
Jennifer Lawrence, who was once “America’s Sweetheart,” may have been considered a good fit for Dior. However, she faced criticism for not fitting in with the high fashion French brand. Some even lambasted her as boring.
Jennifer Lawrence has become the worst @Dior ambassador. Yes she’s successful, but her fashion isn’t. No versatility, simply boring.
— fine china (@HleMvakali) January 13, 2014
just me who’s not a huge fan of the Jennifer Lawrence Dior campaign? not a patch on the Marion Cotillard or Natalie Portman ones.. #boring
— x.Roshni.x (@ilovethiscity09) October 23, 2013
Negativity surrounding the Lawrence-Dior partnership can also be attributed to the level of Photoshop used in the photos. Consumers increasingly prefer unretouched advertisements.
Just saw the new advertising campaign Jennifer Lawrence has done for Dior. The photoshop is awful. It looks nothing like her!!!
— Miriam Hanna (@MiriamHannaVP) February 22, 2014
The level of retouching in Jennifer Lawrence’s Miss Dior campaign disgusts me. Why ruin her natural beauty!?http://t.co/YeIfX8nsuc
— 🧘🏻♀️ Cass / 🎮 Peregrine (@peregrinetv) February 25, 2013
Model Jourdan Dunn has the highest positive sentiment, at 97 percent. Her Burberry campaign with supermodel Naomi Campbell was well-received by consumers for featuring two black women.
— Brik’ aka Kryme (@brikakakryme) December 15, 2014
But what about the man who started this whole conversation? By hiring Roger Federer, the Japanese streetwear brand was hoping to enhance its global image. This unprecedented move caused Nike’s stock to drop but the switch was met with mostly positive reception, as fans celebrated the union of one of their favorite brands and athletes.
Roger Federer as the new ambassador of Uniqlo 😍😍😍
— eℓℓa (@paprikyu) July 2, 2018
Brilliant move by @UNIQLO_JP to acquire @rogerfederer as their global brand ambassador, and introduce his new look at @wimbledon! After 21 years of partnership with @Nike the G.O.A.T is changing colors. I guess the $300 million deal was a no-brainer! 😉 https://t.co/YINuE1qJ8e
— Beata Komarnicka (@komarnicka_com) July 5, 2018
One sign that a celebrity has made it big is if a brand appoints them as a brand ambassador. This means the celebrity has amassed enough recognition and respect from their field, is appealing to the appropriate audience, and has a large enough following to promote the brand to. Brands may feature their faces in ads that will be printed on the pages of glossy fashion magazines like Vogue. Celebrities may have an entire billboard to showcase the brands’ products in bustling urban areas like Times Square in New York. Brands may ask celebrities to appear in short videos made for social sharing. These are all done in an attempt to attract new consumers and turn them into fans, are play into celebrities’ and brands’ existing fanbases.
For brands, looking at the consumer conversation can help them determine whether or not a celebrity partnership is worth it, and what type of celebrity best fits their purposes.