Celebrity Marketing: Five Barriers to Completing an Endorsement Deal


Negotiating directly for a celebrity has pitfalls.

Brand marketers and agency executives often complain about how difficult it was to close a celebrity deal. It doesn’t have to be a horror story. In fact, it usually is a win-win for both parties. Here is my list of the five biggest barriers to complete a celebrity deal:  

1. Call or email me back!

The biggest complaint is I can’t get an agent to respond! Why? Because agents receive so many inquiries many are “fishing expeditions”, requests that go nowhere. Most executives say the response back, or lack thereof, was a bigger issue than money or negotiations.

2. Who is the real agent?

Also troublesome is the person claiming to be the agent actually is not the exclusive agent. When a non-exclusive agent is involved, he or she inevitably will have to work with the legitimate representative, and tack on an additional fee. These added dollars may come as a percentage (between 10%-25%) or as a flat fee on top of the deal.

Even worse, this third-party may be enough to kill your deal .  Most marketers make the mistake of assuming the agent who claims to be agent is the actual agent.

Oftentimes, it’s hard to tell if agent, manager or publicist make the ultimate decision.  How would a novice know this type of invaluable information? 

Even worse, your offer may never reach the celebrity because the agent may fear the non-exclusive agent will try to steal their client. Agents do not want to involve others who may pose a threat to their exclusive representation! Knowing the difference between who is legitimate and who is a leech looking to profit, is often the difference between delivering or destroying a deal.

3. Unknowingly signing a celebrity with “baggage”   

Background information on celebrities is more important than ever. But how does your company uncover the kind of information needed to make an educated decision on an endorser? This information is seldom available to those who do not track celebrities on a regular basis.

The worst scenario involves negotiating and reaching an agreement only to find out the celebrity has a past which does not match the corporate image you want to project. Of course, there are no guarantees that a celebrity will remain a good citizen, but the least you should do is consult an expert about what due diligence needs to be done.

4. Having a negotiation drag on and on and on and then die

I worked with a brand marketer who was negotiating directly with a top tennis star’s agent/father. The executive was forced to spend over eight months in negotiations only to be turned down for no other reason than “they just aren’t interested.”

Holding out can drive the celebrity’s price up, as the agent realizes the longer they wait, the more “under the gun” you may become.  Agents work for celebrities. If being difficult or demanding helps agents receive the best deal for their clients, that’s what they’ll do!

Time-consuming negotiations are typical and intentional with inexperienced executives. Negotiations take a few days to a few weeks and not longer in almost all cases.

5. Being labeled as a “one-timer”

When a brand marketer or advertising agency calls an agent directly, the deal is viewed as a one-time opportunity to max earnings & creates little or no incentive to negotiate.

Mistakenly, most executives do not give proper weight to leverage in endorsement negotiations when many times it is the strongest point they may have on their side.

Having a history of bringing multiple deals to agents is an invaluable volume leverage for a brand trying to keep costs in line. A celebrity agency/expert can provide significant volume leverage and savings for a brand it lacks on it’s own.

Celebrity negotiations don’t have to be long or contentious. They should be done quickly and create a win-win partnership.

photo credit: ell brown via photopin cc


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