Getting a celebrity to endorse your brand has always been an effective way to get consumers to pay attention to a product. Now, thanks to the rapid rise of  social media, landing a well-known name for your campaign has gotten a little easier--and less expensive.

That's according to a new report called "The Future of Celebrity Marketing," conducted by Celebrity Intelligence, a research firm, in partnership with Econsultancy. In its first-ever study on the topic, Celebrity Intelligence surveyed 355 marketing specialists through an online questionnaire. The data found that Hollywood celebrities continue to be in high demand when it comes to brand endorsements; about 69 percent of businesses said they were actively working with a celebrity.

What's most interesting, however, is the rising influence of social media stars. About 50 percent of companies agreed that film stars are most relevant, though celebrities with a presence on platforms like Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are gaining traction. Forty-three percent of businesses said that social media talent would be ideal for future projects.

Meanwhile, researchers also pointed out that short-term, campaign specific contracts have become increasingly popular, giving smaller companies with less of a budget more opportunity to work with influencers.  

"Right now, brands are signing campaign specific contracts," said Priyanka Mehra Dayal, the content marketing manager with Centaur Media, the parent company of Celebrity Intelligence. "Social media has made working with celebrities more accessible, because you don't have to pay a huge sum of money for that celebrity to be your brand ambassador."

It's the difference, in other words, between commissioning Kim Kardashian-West to post two photos to Instagram, versus paying her millions as part of a multi-year endorsement deal. A short-term contract also insulates your brand--in the event that a celebrity makes a gaffe, for instance, or commits a crime--and you want to terminate a partnership.

Why social media celebrities are gaining traction

Dayal says it's not surprising that social media influencers, who've gained fame through posting frequently online, have become more popular. 

"If you compare George Clooney to a social media star, there's probably going to be a massive difference [in sales]," says Dayal. "But social media influencers give you a more engaged audience," she said, explaining that their fans are reacting more (sharing on Facebook, re-tweeting on Twitter) to any single piece of content posted. That bodes well for your brand over time. 

Last year, the Glamour U.K. featured YouTube influence Tanya Burr on its December cover, coinciding with YouTube's 10-year anniversary. Dayal, who spoke with the magazine's associate editor, says that print sales that month were up five to 10 percent. Much of that was driven by Burr's promotional push on social media.

Analysts also point out that the distinction between traditional film stars and social media influencers depends largely on the campaign itself, and what your company's initiative is.

"Brand marketers are still critical of the audience they're trying to connect [with], and how they consume media before ultimately deciding which type of celebrity to collaborate with," says Ryan Stern, co-founder and CEO at Collectively Inc., an influencer marketing agency based in San Francisco, Calif.

Finding the right fit

For the most part, businesses and agencies agree that celebrity partnerships are worth a sizable investment. More than half of agency respondents said they were spending between £10,000 and £100,000 ($12,940 and $129,401) on campaign specific contracts, while roughly one in four companies said they spent up to 30 percent of their marketing budget on celebrity engagement.

It's still important for startups to commit time and resources to discovering a celebrity's interests, tastes, and endorsement history before signing them to a campaign. Dayal points out that most of the brands surveyed (66 percent) conducted manual research through platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. 

Choosing the wrong partner comes with the risk of seeming inauthentic--which could drive away customers over time. As Dayal puts it: "Just because someone is trending that week doesn't mean they'll work for your brand."

Published on: Jul 7, 2016