Mark Amaza: The rise of unconventional brand endorsers

As far back as the 1960s, brand endorsements have become a part of modern advertising where brands aim to leverage on the power and popularity of celebrities by paying them to endorse and promote the brands.

Nigeria has not been an exception to this phenomenon, which especially peaked as telecommunications companies with their huge advertising budgets came into the country. Today, many other brands, especially lifestyle brands spend a lot of money securing endorsements from celebrities.

It can be observed that most of the celebrities whose endorsements are highly sought-after are entertainers – performing artistes and actors. Today, an artiste’s business model is to aim for income not just from performances, but also from endorsements for brands. It is not uncommon to hear huge sums splashed around for these endorsements, whether it is N200m by Globacom for an Uti Nwachukwu fresh off his Big Brother Win or N30m for Davido by MTN just after his first hit single, Omo Baba Olowo.

However, there is a quiet rising trend, which is the use of celebrities who are unconventional, in the sense that they are not entertainers albeit popular in their own right. This was pioneered by Etisalat, which used people such as TV personality Funmi Iyanda, photographer Obi Somto and media executive Nduka Irabor as part of their EasyLite campaign advertising their telecoms package.

But this was still uncommon that when Globacom announced its first non-entertainment endorsement in the person of young media mogul, Debola Williams, it was huge news.

Liquor brand, Remy Martins has taken it a notch higher with its current campaign, One Life – Live Them where it is using mainly unconventional brand endorsers. While artiste, actor and comedian Falz is an easily recognizable celeb, the same cannot be said of Noble Igwe, or blogger and public speaker, Japheth Omojuwa.

Why are brands broadening their field of vision with respect to seeking endorsements?

  • Cost: While I do not know the sums paid to non-entertainment celebs or the terms of the endorsement deals, it is not unfathomable to assume that they will not be as expensive as entertainment celebs. This is because for them, such deals are a nice extra source of income rather than entertainers who are hoping that endorsement deals become an income mainstay. Not only that, there is also far less competition on non-entertainment celebs.
  • Campaign Type and Objectives: It goes without saying that it is important to be able to see an easy fit between a celebrity and the brand you want them to endorse – unless you aim to leave us scratching our heads and trying to figure what you are on about, like Forte Oil has succeeded with its Tiwa Savage endorsement. The celeb must embody the brand and the particular brand campaign so that target audiences can easily be able to associate the celeb to the brand. We see that in the Remy Martin ‘One Life – Live Them’ where all the brand endorsers are popular lifestyle icons who juggle different careers at the same time.
  • Target Audience Sophistication: Sophisticated target audiences have a wider field of influences on their lifestyles than unsophisticated ones. For instance, Nigeria’s urban youth population will look up more than to just artistes as lifestyle influencers – it could include a fashion designer, a blogger or popular author. In dealing with such audiences, it might be necessary to expand the scope of search for the type of celeb to endorse the brand, but keeping in mind that they meet the campaign type and objectives.

It will be fun to watch and see what next set of unconventional brand campaigns shall come to pass. But one thing is for certain – there is still a lot of room for more.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Mark Amaza is a brand strategist and the Team Leader of MINDcapital, a branding, strategy and PR firm. He can be reached on Twitter via @amasonic

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