Should you contact celebrities for your products?

Should you contact celebrities to promote your productsMany of you want to know how to contact celebrities to gift your products and if this strategy can help increase your product sales. I’ve personally tried a few celebrity gifting methods and some proved to increase sales, some didn’t. Read on.

When I was working with a PR company, they had a lot of celebrity stylists stop by their office to look for new products for their clients. My PR company gave away about 25-30 of our products (t-shirts) to various celebrities, including the cast of Dancing with the Starts, Girls Next Door, Mena Suvari and others. This was about six months ago and I’ve yet to see a photo of any of these celebrities wearing our tees.

I then decided to try a different strategy and partnered with a celebrity gifting company for our Stay Strong organic cotton tees. The tee was part of a gift basket that included other Breast Cancer Awareness products. I received a press release and photo of the gift basket out of it, but no endorsement from any of the celebrities who received the gift basket. Most recently, I partnered with a celebrity gifting company that specializes in baby and children’s products. No results from that one either.

I also sent about 60 shirts on my own directly to celebrities and received thank you notes from quite a few of them (Denise Richards, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sarah Michelle Gellar). In addition, I organized Savor The Success’s Celebrity Gift Basket campaign and received a great response from this – thank you notes from Courtney Cox, Denise Richards, Tori Spelling and Ed Begley.

However, it’s not the fact that I received these thank you notes that have increased sales. It’s what I did with the actual thank you notes that helped to drive sales. After I received the thank you notes, I contacted all my customers (including all our retail partners) to let them know that a certain celebrity loves our tees. In addition, I emailed all of the celebrity magazines to let them know as well. As a result, I received mentions in glamour.com, ellegirl.com and a few other major magazine’s websites, which definitely helped to increase sales.

I’ve spoken with other companies who’ve tried celebrity gifting, as well as with PR and gifting firms and here’s what I found.

Ways to get your products into the hands of celebrities

  1. Gifting suites at events attended by celebrities - these gifting suites are often organized by PR or gifting companies and you have a ‘booth’ at the event or place your products in attendee gift bags. These often require hefty fees (thousands of dollars) to participate and anyone who walks into the gifting suite can pick up a free sample of your product. The advantage is that you can often get a photo of a celebrity holding or using your product, but the disadvantage is that you don’t have control over who that celebrity is.
  2. Hiring a PR company that specializes in celebrity gifting- these companies prepare and send gift baskets (usually organized around a central theme such as Green Products, Baby Products, Breast Cancer Awareness Products, etc.) and send them directly to the celebrities or their assistants and managers. The advantage is that many of these companies have personal relationships with the assistants/managers and the fee for this service is much smaller than that for gifting suites (anywhere from $30 to a few hundred for a gift basket), but the disadvantage is that your product is one of many that the celebrity receives in that gift basket.
  3. Working with a PR firm who includes celebrity gifting as part of your overall PR plan – this is more targeted towards your “dream” celebrities and these companies often have personal relationships with celebrities, their stylists or their agents. The cost is usually included in your monthly PR retainer fee.
  4. Contacting celebrities or celebrities’ agents directly – using a directory such as WhoRepresents.com or ContactAnyCelebrity.com to send your products directly to the celebrities or their agents. The advantage is that the cost for this service is usually low ($10-$20 per month) and you have access to any celebrity you want, but the disadvantage is that you’re sending an unsolicited product to someone you probably have never worked with before.

The goal, of course, is to either get a photo of the celebrity using/wearing your product or to get a written testimonial that you can post on your website and use in your marketing materials. Each of these methods has its own advantages or disadvantages, so it’s best to decide which avenue to pursue based on your budget, the type of product you have and your PR goals.

Does celebrity gifting increase your sales?

Denise Richards Tees for Change low resWe heard back from many entrepreneurs who’ve participated in celebrity gifting and here are some of their success stories:

  • Big Feet PJ‘s has participated in a few celebrities gifting suites and they use the celebrities photos from the events on their website.
  • Tiny Revolutionary has used celebrity gifting with great success. Here’s what the owner, BreeAnne Clowdus told us: “When we started our company in 2007, we did a slew of celeb gifting (about a dozen celebs at $125 a pop) with a PR company. For over one year, nothing and then, when Obama’s campaign was in full swing, Sheryl Crow was photographed on the streets of New York with Wyatt wearing our “Save Some Green for Me! Drive a Hybrid” tee. Then, a few weeks later, she was at the Democratic Convention on Access Hollywood and guess what he was wearing? Yep! Our tee. This was the only reason our publicist was able to secure placement in Us Weekly for TR and it’s been the subject line on many a blog post about our company. It was gold.”
  • BabyLegs has also had a great response to celebrity gifting.  “We currently subscribe to a celebrity gifting company for our product BabyLegs. We have had great success with gifting celebrities and have seen our product on many celebrities’ children including Angelina Jolies’ daughter Zahara, Gwen Stefani’s children Kingston and Zuma, and Jessica Alba’s daughter, Honor. We have been gifting celebrities for over two years, and are finally getting the shots that make it all worth it. There are certain products that make sense for celebrity gifting, they need to be products that the celebrity would take out of their house and use/wear in public. Celebrity gifting does not lead to an immediate increase in sales but it does build brand awareness and instill consumer trust.”
  • LA Plates: “We have had a lot of people drawn to our product because of our profile with celebrities. We have worked with the women who run The Silver Spoon out of LA. I can’t say that celebrities buy more because of placement in gift bags. However, having a celebrity seen with your product gives it more credibility.”
  • Fezelry Jewelry Designs: “I am a small indie designer; due to the extreme cost involved I have not used a gifting company though I have contacted a few and determined such a thing would not be beneficial to my company or my bottom line. I have instead mailed my items directly to the celebrity or stylist and as a result (of a lot of hard work and persistence) I have been successful. I have landed a few pieces on major television and then used this exposure to cross market the item and sales have increased.”
  • Smart Mom Jewelry: “There is no question in my mind that having a celebrity photo gallery on our website and using celeb photos in our marketing efforts has had a huge increase on sales.  It’s hard to say exactly how much of an impact but sales have increased over 500% since we added the celeb gallery to our site…I don’t think the gift baskets are as worthwhile as events. With baskets, there’s a CHANCE the celeb will like your product and later be photographed with it but there’s certainly no guarantee that will happen.  And celebs receive LOTS of baskets from many sources so who knows if your product will stand out?  In other words, chances are that no one (potential customers or press) will know your product was even involved in a basket.  At an event,however, you come away with actual photographs, “proof” that celebs did, in fact, see/use your product.  It’s a much better investment, in my opinion. It does cost more to do the events but for good events, it’s worth it.  The downside to events?  You’re not going to get the A-Listers.  J-Lo and Halle Berry are not attending these types of things.  You will come away with lots of photos of “unknowns” – but even lower-tier celeb photos can have a positive impact on sale.

Other entrepreneurs have had mixed results or haven’t yet been able to measure their results:

  • Hand Picked Pumpkin: “I did not see a spike in sales, just a surge of traffic that day from a post celebrity baby blog did BUT I do think it added a lot of validity to my product and new company – and gave me a big confidence boost – all of which are priceless at launch time.  Since then we have continued to do some celebrity gifting here and there via gifting companies and have yet to see anything as big happen. Here’s a link to our celebrity page.”
  • Zoobies.com – “We’ve done a few gifting suites. I don’t think a company can expect a spike in sales just by having their product in the hands of celebrities. We were lucky enough to have a picture of Tori Spelling holding a Zoobie turn up in US Weekly magazine as a result of a gifting suite. We also have a nice celebrity gallery, but if I were to choose between spending money on a trade show or a celebrity gifting suite there’s no question, I’d pick the trade show. I’d also rather give product to major buyers than celebs.  I would only recommend a gifting suite to a company that knows how to drive PR; a pic of a celeb with your product doesn’t do you any good if you don’t get that picture into the hands of press people.”
  • Nancy Draper of Nancy D. Jewelry, a jewelry artist: “I am a Pacific Northwest jewelry artist, specializing in nickel-free earrings for those who suffer from metal/nickel allergy.  About a month ago, I sent 200 pairs of my earrings to a gift bag promotional company, after doing a bit of exploration.   They were included in the goodie bags at the premier of a movie at a theatre in New York City.    Unfortunately, I saw no business from it.   What I did see was that I was able to send them all of my inventory I was ready to move, and I’m able to leverage the experience when marketing to others.
  • Rojeti.com – “I have been involved several programs to date, and quite honestly the only thing that has come from it is an increased request from others for ‘free’ products for their events.  On the up side, I was able to generate a press release that mentioned the event with a list of celebrities that would be receiving my product.  On the down side, after paying for the ‘inclusion’ fee, the cost of the product, the shipping, and the marketing materials, I spent several thousand dollars – and still haven’t seen a single sale from the event.”
  • ZGirlz Cosmeticz: “We did not find an increase in sales with gift giving to celebrities.  We gave directly to celebrities as well as hiring a company.  We gave to Jessica Alba and all of her baby shower attendees, we gave to Paris Hilton, and to Tori Spelling, Scott Baio, Jennifer Morrison, etc directly.  And we hired two celebrity gift bag companies to give our products in swag bags at multiple celebrity events.  It made absolutely no difference for us and cost us quite a bit to do it.”

What products are most suited for celebrity gifting?

From speaking with many business owners, I’ve found that items like apparel, accessories, toys, baby products (strollers, baby carriers, etc.) and the like work best for celebrity gifting. If you have an organic soap, for example, a celebrity will most likely never be photographed using your soap (although they can write a testimonial or mention your soap in an interview).

According to BreeAnne of Tiny Revolutionary, in order for a celebrity gifting campaign to be effective, the following must happen:

  1. The recipient has to wear it.
  2. They have to be in public wearing it.
  3. They have to be photographed wearing it.
  4. The photograph has to show the item clearly enough to be identified.
  5. Someone has to buy the photograph.
  6. Someone at the publication has to ID the product.

Does your product fit the above? If so, you might want to try celebrity gifting and signing up for a subscription to Contact Any Celebrity. It’s not a guarantee of increased sales, but if all the right pieces fall into place, it can definitely build buzz about your products and company.

If you’ve had experience with celebrity gifting, leave a comment below and tell us about your experience.

20 Comments. Leave new

Great article! Especially the numbered list at the end really brought it into focus for me, those are quite the hurdles to cross….. so often people will give me “useful” advise, such as: “Oh! you need to send these flower earrings to XYZ!” But, even if I do, and she loves them, there is #2 – #6 to get past…. and chances are I never even find out about #1 happening. Oh I feel like such a Chicken Little right now! LOL

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launchgrowjoy
April 5, 2012 4:36 am

Hi Simona, Thanks for your comment! It’s definitely a lot of steps to go through :) But it can be worth it…

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(Sorry, I know this is long! Lol) When my company was just several months old, we had a HORRIBLE experience with a Los Angeles “professional” celebrity gifter, whom we believe targets new (naïve and trusting) mom-owned businesses; and one of the places she goes searching for them is at tradeshows – so please BE WARE. It is our opinion she crossed the line of being dishonest and unethical, to being fraudulent.

After spending many many hours doing extensive investigative work and speaking with several celebrity personal assistants/gift recorders, we concluded that out of the 18 celebrities (and one well-known pregnancy magazine) that were listed on her invitation who were to receive a gift basket, it’s likely that NONE of the “A-listers” ever received the gift basket; but rather two of her D-list “celebrity” friends, may have. (And I use the term celebrity very loosely.)

We now understand that it is out of the gifter’s control what happens to the gift basket once it’s delivered to the celebrity’s PA/manager’s office, but we have reason to believe the baskets were never delivered. And the wording on the invitation did not say that the celebrities MIGHT receive the basket, it was stated that they WOULD. We didn’t pay money (and wouldn’t have) and give away all of that inventory for the CHANCE of our product getting into the hands of these celebrities; the invitation said that’s what was going to happen. And the woman couldn’t verify for us or produce any proof whatsoever that the baskets were actually mailed/delivered. It was verified, however, that she in fact used the name of the well-known pregnancy magazine to promote her gift basket event without the magazine’s permission. (That is false advertising…and it is ILLEGAL.)

Before I wised up to the red flags her gift basket event were raising, I had already paid more money to participate as a vendor in her big LA event. Long story short, six days before I was to fly out, I discovered that she had changed the time/date/name of this big event, and it was moved back a week later. (Mind you I had already purchased a non-refundable round-trip plane ticket, etc.) When I sent her a courteous and professional email alerting her that I was not notified of the changes and was concerned that maybe there were other vendors who also did not receive the email, she sent no apology but literally a one-sentence terse email that read: “i sent an email to ALL the vendors”

Months later, I learned from another business owner that the excuse this woman used of why she needed to change the event (her “mom had to have emergency open heart surgery in DC”), was the same story she has used at least 2 other times that this person knew of.

When a fellow mom-business owner saw an older Facebook post of mine saying that I was attending this woman’s event as a vendor, she called me and left a voice message pleading with me not to have anything to do with this woman and her events. She had been a vendor at a past event and said “it was a joke” and that she “just gives free stuff to her friends.” She said she has paid her “stupid tax”. I called her back and thanked her, but said it was too late – I had paid my stupid tax too!

There is so much more I could write on this topic (and I’m sparing the ugly details), but for time’s sake…I’ll simply end by saying that even if you find a reputable professional celebrity gifter (and I do know they’re out there)…if you’re a fledgling company with a small marketing budget, I don’t believe celebrity gifting is the wisest way to spend your marketing dollars.

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launchgrowjoy
April 5, 2012 4:39 am

Wow, Jennifer, so sorry to hear about your experience! It’s unfortunate that this happened to you. I always recommend getting at least three references from past or current customers before working with a PR company or any company that provides a similar service. Thanks for sharing your experience! I think a lot of our readers will benefit from hearing about it.

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I did one Celebrity Gifting Suite at the Emmy Awards and got nothing out of it aside from giving away a lot of t-shirts. I have no idea who may have received them and I didn’t get any sales or publicity out of it. I have not however given up the idea of celebrity gifting to get my brand out there. I have an opportunity to participate in an “A” list celebrity gift bag for Mother’s Day. I can either participate in all 30 bags (+ 5 press bags) for one price or I can choose to just gift as little as one celebrity (my choice) for $25. Here’s my dilemma: I have a subscription to contactanycelebrity.com so I could just send my gift to each celebrity that I want on my own (without having to pay the $25 per cost). Does anyone have an opinion of what would be the better choice?

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launchgrowjoy
April 5, 2012 4:35 am

Sheryl, great question! I think it depends on the event and the track record of the company doing the gifting. IS there any way that you can speak to some of their past customers to see if they got results?

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Andreea, I can only see from the posts on the Facebook Group page (the company is The indieExhibit). Some people have luck and some don’t. I didn’t have any luck in the Gift Suite so I would probably not do that anymore. But, do you think that there is any disadvantage to my just sending a t-shirt on my own with a letter to the celebrity’s publicist?

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Wow, thank you so much for a very timely article. We are about to launch a new alcohol and have received multiple requests to sponsor private parties, dinners, etc. The concept is a little different, but your advice is spot-on. We know now, that the key is to get the proof (photos, etc) at these events.

Again thanks for the insightful column. Most articles are based on interviews with entrepreneurs when they are first selected and how exciting it was to be “selected.” Yours is the only article I have found that truly gives a picture of the aftermath. Amazing to learn most giveaways did little to increase sales.

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Link Hype 5-4-12
May 4, 2012 2:03 pm

[…] Many of us dream of seeing our products on celebrities or TV but how do you go about doing it?  Andreea Ayers wrote a great post for Launch. Grow. Joy. that answers the question, Should You Contact Celebrities for Your Products? […]

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Hi Andreea,
Thank you for the best post in the web written on that subject!

I’m struggling with the question of celebrity gifting for more then two years. We actually didn’t make any move because I find it hard to send a gold product (too expensive) and think that silver product would look to cheap.

We did have an offer from pr company who promised two pictures a month ($4000 a month including promoting those images). Do you think it is worth it?

Thanks
Yaron

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launchgrowjoy
June 21, 2012 4:21 pm

Glad you liked it, Yaron! If you have expensive products it’s a little more tricky to send it unsolicited. What I would recommend is that you contact the celebrity’s publicist, tell them that you’d like to send them a gold piece of jewelry but that you want to make sure that it’s something that the celebrity would actually wear and ask them to pick which item they’d like. That way you will send it solicited and the celebrity is more likely to wear it because they picked it out themselves. As far as their manager, most celebrities don’t open their own mail even when it’s addressed to them, so chances are pretty high that someone else will be opening it for them.

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Also, when you sent gifts by yourself, don’t they have to pass the hands of there personal manager? it seems like a barrier but maybe I’m wrong.

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Hallo, does anybody know if there is any official study or any economic analysis proving the correlation between gifting VIP and Celebrities and increasing the brand name or the company turnover? Thanks for your feedback.

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“Brands don’t have control over who that celebrity is.”

At a gifting lounge, you aren’t required to gift every celebrity. Most brands will have levels of items to gift talent. One year, I worked with a major electronics manufacturer which had a box for celebs they wanted, and a box of chocolates for celebs they didn’t want. Both looked exactly the same except the ribbon on the box was different.

Also, look at the history via pictures from the house photographer. It will give you an idea how good their celebrity wrangling is. Some gifting lounge producers are really good — some are just horrible. Generally, I’ve found the more expensive ones tend to get better talent, especially if they are backstage at the show.

That reminds me: there is a big difference between being actually at a backstage gifting lounge at an award show, and an off-site gifting lounge. The talent for the backstage lounges know this is the lounge supported by the award show officially, so they will stop by. I’ve seen Oprah at the Emmy Awards Backstage Lounge and Grammy nominees at the Grammy Backstage Lounge. Many of these lounges will do magazine contests to win a celebrity gift bag and you might get press hits out of that.

“free sample of your product”

Please be award that all gifting lounges require full-size products, not small sample sizes. Also, official backstage lounges at the major award shows will have a minimum gift value (usually $200).

“contact celeb representatives directly”

Generally this is much more time intensive and there is no guaranty that it won’t go home with the publicist or the assistant.

“pr firm”

This is costly, but probably all in all the most effective way as the lifestyle pr firm will get the product to the celeb, get the pictures and activately pitch those pictures to the blogs and magazines. Rarely, do brands get an earned media pick-up without a publicist activately pitching out the pictures. PR firms activately scour AP Images, Wireimage, for pictures of talent wearing your product. They then “pitch” those pictures to photo editors pointing out your brand. If you do a gift lounge expecting PR hits in People, US Weekly,etc and don’t already have a PR firm on retainer that has these connections, you are most-likely just seeding your product in hopes of a relationship.

“other reasons to use gifting lounges”

1) Developing long-term relationships with celebrity talent. A relationship could lead to such things as developing a celebrity product line.

2) Focus on the press outlets that come to the gifting lounge. The good gifting lounges have an outside PR firm wrangling in reporters and bloggers. Your strategy is to develop direct relationships.

3) You might get actual product placement from participation if you are backstage and have something talent can wear.

4) Content for your social media pages (twitter, instagram, facebook). Content for the events section of your company website.

5) Seeding product to influencers: many of the lounges have thought leaders: television/film/record producers, talent agents, talent managers, bloggers, event producers, etc.

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When contacting a celebrity through their agent do you address the agent or the celebrity directly in your letter/e-mail

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Hello, this article is timless and absolute spot on ! I am representative of London based costume jewellery company and I am about to use your suggestions . I have liked some websites providing contact details for celebs and their publicists /agents /stylists . I was thinking on how to approach them directly? I know that there are PR agencies for that but I was thinking- if I know the contact details why not get the things in my hands.. ?? I noticed similar answer given already: ”What I would recommend is that you contact the celebrity’s publicist, tell them that you’d like to send them a gold piece of jewelry but that you want to make sure that it’s something that the celebrity would actually wear and ask them to pick which item they’d like. That way you will send it solicited and the celebrity is more likely to wear it because they picked it out themselves. As far as their manager, most celebrities don’t open their own mail even when it’s addressed to them, so chances are pretty high that someone else will be opening it for them.” However I was thinking are there any formal requirements I should follow in writing a letter or something?

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I’ve enjoyed reading every bit of this. As I’m trying to reach out and get my products out there. I work with a mixture of materials all of which I enjoy working with. As a result I have been able to create magnificent products. If you don’t believe check out my items for yourself http://www.lashelljewelery.com Other than contacting gifting suites. What have you found useful to you?

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Iggy Azalea just purchased 5 pieces of jewelry from my line. Her stylist picked them up for the black widow video and she decided to keep them all and give one to her mom. I have received texts from her stylists and phone calls from them on how much they love the jewels. That said, I don’t know if I will ever get a photo of them wearing these pieces- how do I tactfully market this information to my benefit. I am extremely thrilled and want to use this info in the most productive and appropriate way. Any suggestions? Much thanks for your wisdom!

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launchgrowjoy
August 21, 2014 8:26 pm

Anita, that is so great! Congratulations… I’m not sure if you can take a screenshot of the texts and post them on your site? That might be an option (but you should text them back and let them know that you’ll be using that for your site and ask their permission).

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Thanks so much for all the valuable info. I think I will try the “contactanycelebrity” site and send someone a dress. These other options are just too costly for me at this time. cheers.

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