Does Celebrity Sell?
17 July 2012 at 11:08 am
Not for Profit organisations are increasingly using celebrity endorsements in their media campaigns to raise awareness and funds for the charity, but are there any golden rules for success?
Pro Bono Australia News journalist Damien Currie looks at these relationships to see what works and what are the ‘celebrity’ risks.
A celebrity endorsed campaign strategy is becoming increasingly attractive to charities and Not for Profits in Australia as an opportunity to receive greater publicity for events and campaigns. But choosing the right celebrity for your organisation takes a lot of consideration and risk assessment.
Senior lecturer and program director for the Asia-Pacific Centre for Social Investment and Philanthropy at Swinburne University, Dr Liz Branigan, says that charities need to consider whether taking on a celebrity to endorse their organisation is in their best interests.
“Each case should be thought through. It must be clear what they want out of the relationship,” Branigan said.
“They have to ask themselves what they seek to gain. Who could be best at bringing that about?”
Sponsorship manager at the Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) Kirsten Pilatti says that her employer has taken the approach that all celebrities involved with them must have been affected by breast cancer in some way.
“We’re very selective. We make sure they are really clear about what we expect,” she says.
“We make very sure that the celebrity is the right fit and understands what we do and are involved with what we do.”
BCNA's ambassador Raelene Boyle thanks participants at the 2010 Field of Women at the MCG
Olympic sprinter and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Raelene Boyle is the key celebrity ambassador at the Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA). Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996, Boyle has been affiliated with BCNA since it began in 1998 and is a current board member.
“Raelene is someone with a public profile but has the same feelings about her cancer as the rest of the women going through the same thing,” says Pilatti.
“What she has been able to do is reach out to women we support so that they feel like they’re not alone.
“It gives them a connection with her.”
Pilatti explains how many other cancer organisations tried to get Raelene on board after her diagnosis.
“Raelene talks about how many cancer groups approached her. The reason why she chose BCNA is because it fitted well with her. She wants to give back through an organisation that supports women and families on their breast cancer journey.”
Through the charity’s involvement with the AFL Footy Show, football great Shane Crawford offered to work with BCNA because he felt strongly about the women with breast cancer he had met on set.
“His role is more about raising funds and awareness and connecting women with breast cancer to the services that we provide,” she says.
“He ran from Adelaide to Melbourne in 11 days and raised half a million dollars back in 2010.”
BCNA is “very selective” with who they choose to speak on behalf of their organisation who wants to give something back to the cancer community and not just increase their own profile.
Nick Bracks (right) and Adam Rabone at the Run Melbourne fundraiser
The son of a former Victorian Premier and underwear model Nick Bracks is another spokesperson for the charity.
“My Mum has had a long affiliation with the BCNA. I thought it was a good idea,” he says.
Since launching his own underwear brand Underbracks in November last year, Bracks has donated $3 from every sale of his $29.95 designer trunks to the charity.
“As a men’s underwear brand it was a good way to increase men’s awareness of breast cancer as it is something that can affect anyone, including men,” he explains.
Charity ambassador Nick Bracks
Bracks recently competed in the Run Melbourne event wearing only a pair of specially produced pink briefs as a “bit of fun”. The gimmick raised funds for the BCNA as well as generating media attention.
Pilatti says how Bracks approached the BCNA looking for a way to do something to give, describing him a “philanthropist generally”.
But Bracks is a little more modest. “I like to help out where I can. I’m trying to do something that’s beneficial,” he says. “If that’s a philanthropist then I guess I am.”
In 2011 he appeared on the reality television show Dancing With The Stars, raising money for the Beyond Blue foundation.
“I’ve had depression in the past so it’s an area that I wanted to support.”
Recently youth mental health service HeadSpace named Bracks as their ambassador.
“I’m really excited to be working with Headspace. They specifically target youth issues. I’m really passionate about it and will be talking about my own experiences in schools.”
Another youth-oriented Not for Profit campaign is the annual 40 Hour Famine organised by World Vision.
This year they have partnered with the Somebody That I Used To Know singer, Gotye.
Ambassador Manager Dale Amtsberg discusses the strategic decision to select the Aussie artist.
“Integrating artists work really well with World Vision,” he says. “The 40 Hour Famine is a youth targeted product. Our campaign needs to stay relevant.”
For this reason the project partners with different artists each year who donate their material for free for use in World Vision material.
In addition, World Vision have a team of ambassadors who bring attention to their work on a long term basis.
“They help us get our voice out to an audience we may not be able to reach,” Amtsberg said.
World Vision’s partnership with Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman came from a pre-existing friendship between the star and World Vision chief executive Tim Costello.
“Jackman has an ongoing association and journey with World Vision. He’s been overseas to see our work.”
Hugh Jackman with Dukale, an Ethiopian coffee farmer
But both Amtsberg and Pilatti agree that there is a level of risk associated with household names speaking and acting on behalf of their respective charities.
Branigan says that if the celebrity acquires a negative profile they can bring the charity into a level of disrepute.
Earlier this year the Alannah and Madeline Foundation had to end ties with Olympic swimmer Grant Hackett after mainstream media reports surfaced that he damaged a hotel room.
The foundation chairman John Bertrand issued a release to distance the charity from the scandal as part of their continuous review of their ambassador strategy.
Pilatti says that when you go through who to associate your brand with you really need to do a risk analysis.
“We represent women diagnosed with breast cancer. If a celebrity wasn’t right we would distance ourselves immediately,” she says.
Amtsberg agrees, saying that there are always risks associated with these relationships.
Next month the Centre for Social Investment and Philanthropy at Swinburne University will host a seminar for Not for Profits who are considering the idea of a celebrity ambassador and what they need to consider before they do so.
More information on the event and how to register can be found here.