Celebrity Brand Ambassadors

14 December 2018

“Pirates of the Caribbean” castmates Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley are both well-known celebrities and brand ambassadors for top luxury brands, Dior and Chanel. However, their reputation amongst consumers sits at opposite ends of the spectrum, with Depp’s on and off screen “bad boy” image versus Knightley’s “good girl” persona. Their contrasting reputations attract different opportunities and risk challenges for the brands and entertainment companies that employ and leverage them as brand ambassadors.

American actor Depp, the face of luxury goods maker Dior’s Sauvage cologne, is an A-list celebrity with a facial-recognition score among consumers of 96 out of 100, according to specialty research firm Spotted. Despite his high facial recognition score, Depp, who tends to play villains and has a real-life reputation for hard living, is a mixed bag. He gets low scores for trustworthiness (12) and relatability (5), high marks for being adventurous (99) and artistic (91), and so-so reviews for attractiveness (60) and his appeal as a product endorser (56). Consumers consider him a magnet for controversy (95).

For Dior, Depp’s topsy-turvy scores may not matter - just as talk of his heavy drinking and allegations of domestic abuse don’t seem to faze the premium brand. In fact, Dior’s Sauvage scent, which the company calls “at once refined and untamed,” seems to be a natural fit for Depp, who has a score of 100 for individualism. In this light, Depp’s reputation as an iconoclast may warrant scrutiny, yet much of his image adds value to the roles he plays and the brands he endorses.

You might think British actress Knightley, who represents Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle fragrance, doesn’t need such scrutiny. But perceptions around every celebrity matter - whether it’s to determine fit with a particular marketing strategy or to gauge the likelihood of personal problems derailing a film production.

Knightley, who usually plays strong-willed heroines, is less famous than Depp with a facial recognition score of 81. But consumers think her highly confident (92), sensual (92), glamorous (91) and mysterious (98) nature aligns well with Chanel’s description of Coco Mademoiselle as “a powerful, deep, addictive fragrance.”

Knightley’s mid-to-low scores, for things like rebelliousness (44) and irreverence (19), may be comforting to prospective employers. Spotted CEO, Janet Comenos, says “On the other hand, her middling scores of 37 for authenticity and 39 for relatability, key determinants of endorsement appeal, suggest she may be a better fit for an aspirational brand - like Chanel - than for brands geared to the mass market.”

Risky behaviour isn’t usually a selling point for celebrity brand ambassadors, but then “bad boy” Depp, who gets a score of 87 for being influential, is a rule breaker. The actor’s reputation for waywardness seems to have worked with audiences, so far.

Consumer patience with Depp may have its limits, however. His bad behaviour has been linked to the recent cancelation of a big-budget movie he starred in, just weeks before the projected release date. This combination of risky behavior and fame may increasingly pose a threat to the film studios and brands that employ him. Thankfully there are insurance solutions to mitigate against this type of diva behaviour, which will protect film studios from the cost of re-shooting segments of a film or hiring a new cast member.

In sharp contrast to Depp, “good girl” Knightley’s behaviour seems unlikely to overshadow the brands and productions she works for. According to Edel Ryan, Head of Media & Entertainment at JLT Specialty, “Knightley could be viewed as posing a higher risk to both brands and insurers because of her perfect image. If the superstar unexpectedly steps off the mark, Knightley’s behaviour could be considered shocking, versus Depp who we have come to expect bad behaviour from. As the production value of Chanel campaigns are known to cost several million dollars, in addition to the brand ambassador deal thought to run into millions, the financial risk of a brand getting it wrong could be staggering.”

Ryan added that “as bad behavior is open to interpretation, we envisage that Chief Marketing Officers and their brand, alongside insurers, will progress to relying on analytics to support decisions that will influence million dollar outcomes”.

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All data provided by Spotted.

Spotted apply rich research, driven by proprietary data and analysis, to the decision-making process to help brands avoid high visibility mistakes when choosing their celebrity partnerships.

JLT Specialty work with clients, designing insurance solutions around sponsorship deals. For more information, click here.