Have you ever thought about contacting celebrities and gifting your products to them as a way to increase your brand awareness and sales? I’ve personally tried a few celebrity gifting methods and in today's post, I'd love to share with you my personal experience, as well as the experiences of other entrepreneurs whose products were featured on celebrities.
Ways to get your products into the hands of celebrities
- 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.
- 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.
- Working with a PR firm that 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.
- Contacting celebrities or celebrities’ agents directly – using a directory such as 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.
My experience with contacting celebrities
When I hired a PR agency to help me get buzz for my t-shirt brand, one of their PR strategies was through celebrity gifting. A few times a week they had celebrity stylists stop by their PR office to look for new products for their clients. While the PR agency gifted about 25-30 of our products to various celebrities, including the cast of Dancing with the Starts, Girls Next Door, Mena Suvari and others, the results were not successful. I’ve yet to see a photo of any of these celebrities wearing the t-shirts.
I then decided to try a different strategy and partnered with a celebrity gifting company for my 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. A few months later I also partnered with a celebrity gifting company that specialized in baby and children’s products. No results from that one either.
I also sent about 60 shirts on my own directly to celebrities (by using Contact Any Celebrity – affiliate link) 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 thank you notes from Courtney Cox, Denise Richards, Tori Spelling and Ed Begley!
Contacting celebrities on my own seemed to have the best results!
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 loved 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 magazines' websites, which definitely helped to increase sales.
Will your sales increase if you contact celebrities?
I’ve spoken with other entrepreneurs who tried to contact celebrities, as well as with PR and gifting firms, and here’s what they said:
- Tiny Revolutionary has used celebrity gifting with great success. Here’s what the owner, BreeAnne Clowdus told us: “When we started our company 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. We have had great success with gifting celebrities and have seen our product on many celebrities’ children. 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 have had a huge increase in 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? 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 sales.
Other entrepreneurs have had mixed results or haven’t yet been able to measure their results with celebrity gifting:
- Hand Picked Pumpkin: “I do not see a spike in sales when I contact celebrities, 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.”
- 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. 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: “I sent 200 pairs of my earrings to a gift bag promotional company. They were included in the goodie bags at the premiere of a movie at a theatre in New York City. Unfortunately, I saw no business from it.”
- Rojeti.com: “I have been involved in 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 upside, 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 downside, 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. 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 when you contact celebrities. 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).
In order for a celebrity gifting campaign to be effective, the following must happen:
- The recipient has to wear it.
- They have to be in public wearing it.
- They have to be photographed wearing it.
- The photograph has to show the item clearly enough to be identified.
- Someone has to buy the photograph.
- Someone at the publication has to mention the product/brand in the magazine.
Does your product fit the above? If so, you might want to contact celebrities on your own by signing up for a subscription to Contact Any Celebrity (affiliate link). 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.
Do you find it valuable to contact celebrities? If you've had experience with celebrity gifting, leave a comment below and tell us about your experience.