Celebrity show downs

Hiring a celebrity to front a live event may draw in the crowds but it is no guarantee of success. Choose those that are relevant to the brand message, and choose with care, warns Richenda Wilson

Famous people can be temperamental. Of course, this makes them great fodder for celeb-watching magazines, but can also make them a liability at a live event.

Say you book a comedian for a gala event, what happens if he ducks out at the last minute, or ridicules the winners of your prestigious awards, or runs out of steam – or Bolivian marching powder – at a crucial moment? What if the comedian tells offensive jokes?Celebrities can be a great draw to a live event, but you have to choose them wisely, says Duncan Beale, managing director of production company Line Up. “For instance, we work for a high-street retailer with a diverse mix of employees, in terms of race, religion, age and gender, so care needs to be taken.” Successful past bookings include Bob Monkhouse and Bobby Davro.

Star brighten

Having said that, external speakers can be valuable in enhancing your brand without necessarily endorsing it, adds Beale.

They can also add glamour to potentially dry proceedings, says Sharon Richey, managing director of BEcause experiential marketing. When BEcause was enlisted to help sell Petplan insurance, it created a Petplan forum at Crufts and enlisted high-profile dog-loving speakers such as Germaine Greer and actress Jaye Griffiths.

“Celebrity appearances will always grab people’s attention but it is worth thinking very carefully about how relevant they are to the brand and the messages you are trying to convey,” warns Julian Pullen, managing director of event company Jack Morton Worldwide.

“Big names also, of course, mean big budgets which can leave little for anything else and it’s certainly not the only way to make a splash. In fact, audiences can be made to feel more special when a programme is obviously created just for them – when their needs and preferences are understood.

“An effective live experience can use many techniques to whip up enthusiasm among its audience, create advocates and stimulate the will to act on what has been experienced. However, if the brand is not properly understood even the most engaging of experiences can be wasted.”

“Flashy events, special effects and glam celebs will only deliver ROI if they are used to good effect with the right brand at the right event,” agrees Cameron Day, director at Iris Experience. “In-depth planning is crucial in making sure that whatever technique/type of live event you go with, you deliver from a brand point of view. Agencies should start with the communication objective and let it dictate the disciplines, channels and properties used. Pointless add-ons will at best overpower and at worst damage the brand.”

When Iris Experience was tasked with raising awareness of Sony Ericsson Walkman phones by targeting style-leading 18to 24-year-olds, it needed to tap into a pan-European youth market while demonstrating Sony Ericsson’s commitment to its “Music on the Move” proposition. It came up with “Gig in the Sky”.

“Consumers entered a draw to win tickets for an intimate Jamiroquai gig, on a plane flying between Munich and Athens,” explains Day. “On touchdown, a further 500 competition winners joined the passengers to watch a full live concert at Athens airport. The event reverberated with consumers, beautifully illustrated the youth element of Sony Ericsson and also managed to break six Guinness World Records.

“Yes, it was a live music event using a world-famous artist, but it didn’t rely on that to succeed. It relied on thorough planning and in-depth insight into the target market and what makes them tick.”

Essential measurements

Measurement is also important to ensure objectives have been met, mistakes are noted and successful elements are built on next time. When InBev launched Beck’s Fusions, a live music and arts event which took place in London, Glasgow, Dublin and Manchester last year, Nunwood was asked to assess the event’s impact.

Sarah Houghton, managing director of Nunwood London, says: “We conducted and filmed semi-structured interviews at the London event – the highlight of which was a live performance by The Chemical Brothers and United Visual Artists in Trafalgar Square – followed by focus groups and online quantitative interviews with attendees,” says Houghton. “The response was overwhelmingly positive. Attendees celebrated an event that they found innovative and also a great fit with the Beck’s brand. The effect of the event was to have a marked effect on consumers’ affinity with Beck’s.”

Whether you choose to use striking films, informative presentations, dazzling performances or famous faces – or a combination of these – to show off your brand’s strengths, it is essential to ensure the activity ties in with the brand and its target market as well as to establish objectives and measure how well they were met.

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