The Collective Magazine: Friends in High Places

by Drew B

3 March 2015

We're beyond excited to see Nexba in the pages of The Collective Magazine, a lifestyle title for entrepreneurs, game changers and thought leaders. View the full article here or grab a copy of issue 19 with Jennifer Hawkins on the cover. 


The power of a CELEBRITY AMBASSADOR has been proven, but asking a superstar to support your product can be pricey – rumours are US$150 MILLION for David Beckham. But there’s an alternative that won’t cost you anything. Here’s how to get a CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT... for free.

Words by Amy Molloy. 


When Catherine Cervasio was trying to raise the profile of her range of natural, organic baby skincare products, she knew a thumbs up, or even a hint of one, from a celebrity would be a powerful promotional tool, but she definitely didn’t have the budget to entice their affection. Luckily, her product did all of the work for her, and without any financial outgoings, she’s gathered an incredibly famous fan base.

“We’ve received a letter from Princess Mary’s residence, a personal note from Jamie Oliver and his wife, orders from iconic photographer Annie Leibovitz and actress Milla Jovovich, plus many tweets and emails from well-known personalities,” says Catherine, who founded Aromababy in 1994.

“We haven’t paid any of these celebrities to praise us. We do send some free products, but others approach us or purchase our range. Kate Moss received Aromababy when her daughter was a toddler via a luxury resort we supply. I happened to bump into John Travolta and Kelly Preston in Los Angeles at an event and was astonished when they said they already used Aromababy products, because they’d been gifted them during an interview on a trip to Australia.”

Like it or loathe it, we live in a celeb-focused culture and the power of a big-name endorsement has been proven, with numerous studies showing consumers are influenced by the shopping habits of personalities who they aspire to be like. It’s 

why big brands are willing to pay a fortune to sign famous faces to their advertising campaigns, like Pepsi, who reportedly forked out US$50 million for Beyoncé’s involvement, and Adidas who signed a lifetime deal apparently worth more than US$150 million to get David Beckham on board.

While that’s (probably) a little over your budget (cough, cough), small start-ups like Aromababy are proving that you don’t always need a huge revenue 

stream to acquire the support of a celebrity or key influencer. And the best thing is, because you’re not buying their love, the resulting endorsement can be more authentic, genuine and heartfelt, which customers will pick up on.

So, if you’re a small brand with big dreams, how do you attract the attention of personalities who can amplify your message?

While it probably won’t be easy, it is doable, especially in the age of social media, where anyone with a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account can reach out to a famous face without going through their agent or marketing department.

“The first step is to identify a relevant celebrity,” says Judy Sahay, the director of digital agency Crowd Media HQ. “Who are they, what do they stand for, and is this in line with the values and mission statement of your company?”

Once you have a relevant target in sight, then it’s important not to push your products too much, too soon, and fall into the spam category.

“Celebrities get so many tweets from random businesses and fans, you need to be authentic and show real interest in them before pushing your own agenda,” says Judy.

“Remember that celebs have their own brands to build, so if they’ve launched a new product, then applaud it – if you genuinely like it – or if they help a charity, then acknowledge their efforts.”

Judy also recommends watching a star’s social media activity – and then mirroring it.

Do they mainly post personal or promotional tweets, do they use images, text or videos to get their message across? 

“When one of our clients wanted to get in contact with a famous UK singer, we took the initiative
to design an album cover for her next single. She didn’t end up using it but that’s beside the point. She re-tweeted that to her 2.4 million followers

and our client’s Twitter presence grew significantly overnight. Also she remembered us, which meant that when we contacted her with a business proposal, we had an existing relationship.”

It’s important to remember that, although you may not have big bucks to offer, you’re still brokering a deal and there are alternative currencies to consider.

Although a free product may not excite a celebrity with
a Hollywood salary, would their fan base appreciate it, and could you collaborate on a competition giveaway? (You’re able to sample your product and the celeb appears generous and giving.)

The easiest brands to line up with a celebrity endorsement are those that solve a genuine problem in people’s lives.

“The trick is to make a celebrity so truly grateful and appreciative of a product they actually want to spread the word,” says Natalie Clays, the director for Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking program, who knows the value of a celebrity in her camp.

“We’ve had endorsements from Ellen DeGeneres, Richard Branson, Ashton Kutcher and Pink, and not one of them was paid but they were happy to credit us for helping them.”

To raise the profile of the program, Natalie actively sought out celebrities who could benefit from the service.

“I signed up to Google Alerts so that I notice any articles about celebs who’ve declared they want to quit,” says Natalie.

“Although, I have a rule that I
never reach out to someone unless
they’ve been directly quoted as saying they’d like to give up smoking, which means it’s an authentic and genuine relationship, and in my opinion this is far better than any form of paid advertising.”

When drawing up a hit list of people to approach, it can be helpful to extend your definition of the word ‘celebrity’. Think about key influencers in your industry or those with a profile in your target market – sometimes entrepreneurs, bloggers, business leaders and brand managers command just as much authority and attention as an actress, singer or TV presenter. Also, don’t underestimate the pulling power of ‘local’ celebrities, especially if your product is only stocked in your home country.

When Troy Douglas and Drew Bilbe, the co-founders of Nexba iced tea, which is now stocked in Coles supermarkets, wanted to spread the word about their product, they made a list of their core values and the characteristics they’d look for in a celebrity endorser.

“They needed to be health-conscious people who don’t take themselves too seriously,” says Troy.

“We also wanted them to be Australian, because we’re all about supporting local suppliers.”

After sending out care packages of free products, they earned Twitter compliments from fashion blogger Nikki Phillips, Adelaide boyband At Sunset, and foodie Keira Rumble. They may not be household names but they have a combined Twitter and Instagram following of more than 360,000 people and offered the start-up a customer catchment well beyond their current reach.

“Lining up a celeb endorsement is a bit like approaching a girl in a bar,” says Drew.

“You need to have the courage to strike up a conversation, even if you’re intimidated, because really what’s the worst that could happen? They just ignore you!”

When Nexba appeared in the green room of The Voice TV talent show in Australia – and was caught on camera – they saw an instant spike in social media engagement. The product placement only happened because one of the producers was a fan of the tea and bought a six-pack on their way to the studio. It’s proof that not all endorsements take a lot of effort to achieve.

If celebrity support happens organically, it’s simply up to a brand to leverage it for publicity, and that can be the tricky part. If a celebrity has complimented you privately – such as when Aromababy received a letter from Princess Mary – then what is the etiquette when discussing it on social media and is it appropriate to post their testimonial on a website?

“In my experience, if a celeb has gone out of their way to say they love our range, it’s generally accepted that the person involved is happy for the information to be shared,” says Catherine of Aromababy.

“I think the important point is we’re not just using these people for publicity. I’m genuinely proud of my product and feel very passionate about sharing it. The ‘leverage’ isn’t the driver for any gifting we engage in, and I send out samples of our range to anyone I think will truly appreciate it – whether they’re a movie star, royalty, or a mum I bump into at the park.”

Start-up owners and experts agree: the moral of this story is have faith in your own product and let it do the bulk of your work.

Then it comes down to being a clever tactician and masterminding a way to get your brand into their hands before you leverage their excitement (this is the bit where most people fail). So, focus on what your product can do for them – not what their profile can do for you.

Drew B
Drew B