The tremendous growth of influencer marketing has given way to a central debate, which should my brand partner with: celebrities or social media influencers? While some top social media influencers boast millions of followers, celebrities present unparalleled visibility. Take Selena Gomez’s Instagram for instance, her 135 million followers eclipse Japan’s population.
For a brand, being featured on a top celebrity social media account offers both massive exposure and broad appeal. Unlike social media influencers who create content focused on specific niches, the likeness and recognizability of celebrities allow them to reach audiences that are not only enormous but diverse.
Here we’ll analyze five of the most impressive celebrity influencer marketing examples to date. From Amazon to Wendy’s, brands of all types are turning to the globe’s most notable stars on social media to appeal to millions.
Celebrities receive their fame from traditional means (e.g. movies, TV shows, modeling) whereas a social media influencer achieves their popularity primarily from social media (e.g. posting fun, aspirational, comedic, or lifestyle content, engaging with fans and followers online).
While celebrities may be widely recognized, a recent study conducted by Variety proved social media influencers were largely more popular than some of the biggest celebrities for U.S. teens. Beyond being more popular than mainstream celebrities, a Google case study showed that YouTubers have the ability to drive higher levels of engagement and relatability while also driving purchases — “60% of viewers assessed would buy from their favorite YouTuber over a celebrity.”
For a more comprehensive look at celebrity influencers vs. social media influencers including a breakdown of pros and cons, see our related post below.
Khloe Kardashian (@khloekardashian) comes from a family that has social media, fame and engaging content in its DNA. As a key member of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Khloe is no stranger to having a large audience. As a celebrity influencer, Kardashian has been able to experience personal growth, help fans “keep up,” and even further monetize her personal brand.
On Instagram, she boasts 74 million followers and regularly posts photos of her daily life. Lately, the majority of her posts have focused on her pregnancy and relationship with Cavaliers power-forward Tristan Thompson. Keeping on brand, Khloe has partnered with Amazon to highlight their baby registry options and the various maternity products available.
On a January 2018 episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, the reality TV star broke the news of her pregnancy. To capitalize on the moment, Amazon recently partnered with Kardashian to help her prepare for the subsequent baby shower.
In the form of two sponsored Instagram posts, Kardashian explains that preparing her baby registry has been an overwhelming experience. She pointedly thanks Amazon for offering all the baby supplies she needs in one place.
Kardashian’s pregnancy has been a source of global news and Amazon was tactful in collaborating with her in its specific context. The company’s smart decision was compounded by the nature of Kardashian’s sponsored content. Both posts contain photos from Kardashian’s baby shower, effectively giving audiences access to an exclusive event courtesy of the celebrity herself.
The campaign also allows Amazon to advertise a singular class of products: baby supplies. Instead of advertising Amazon as a whole, the partnership focuses on how specific Amazon products have assisted Kardashian in preparing for a specific moment in her life.
This personal approach is culminated by a clear call to action Kardashian offers in the more recent of the two posts. She says, “Check out my registry at the link in my bio,” which leads to an Amazon webpage where fans can shop her registry. The clear CTA and subsequent link drive Amazon website visits and product purchases
Results: To date, the two sponsored posts have amassed more than 5.5 million likes and 22,000 likes for an impressive average engagement rate of 7.6%.
Related Post: How Amazon’s Marketing Strategy Wins With Influencers
Award-winning actor and comedian Kevin Hart (@kevinhart4real) has a personality that shines on camera. He mostly uses his confidence and humor in his career as an entertainer but has realized that his charisma can be further monetized thanks to the large following he’s attracted on social media. Hart’s Instagram account has 57.7 million followers and he regularly posts updates about his comedy tours, his movies and his life in general.
One notable brand Hart has worked with for influencer initiatives is PokerStars, an online poker service. The above sponsored post features a video of Hart and Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt competing to eat spicy chicken wings. Daniel Negreau, the world’s #1 ranked poker player, serves as the referee.
PokerStars’ decision to feature Hart and Bolt, a comedian and a professional athlete, in the same post makes for an unexpected but hilarious pairing. In doing so, the brand surprises audiences with an exciting duo they likely didn’t know they wanted. The choice firmly plants PokerStars as a pop culture conscious brand. The video also provides the uninitiated a memorable context to become familiar with PokerStars.
The use of a video also allows Hart’s personality to shine. Hart is known for his hilarious remarks and comedic timing, a skill he emphasizes in the video. Overwhelmingly, the video offers audiences a hilarious escape from everyday life. If audiences feel positively towards Hart in the video they’ll be more inclined to learn more about PokerStars.
Results: The singular sponsored post has amassed over 140,000 likes and 700 comments to date.
High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) has come along way since her breakthrough performance as Gabriella Montez. She has gained popularity from roles in other movies, television series, Broadway shows and even social media. Hudgens has 27.9 million Instagram followers and loves to post pictures of herself with friends, the art she enjoys, projects in the works and partnerships with brands like Vera Bradley and Sinful Colors.
Hudgens recently partnered with alcohol brand Stella Artois for its ongoing cause marketing campaign #1Chalice5Years. The campaign aids water.org in ensuring global access to clean water by selling limited edition Stella Artois’ chalices. The profit of a single chalice guarantees one person has access to clean water for five years. In partnership with Stella Artois, Hudgens published one sponsored post.
In the caption, Hudgens succinctly introduces the campaign with the statement, “Just purchasing 1 Chalice = 5 years of clean water for a person in the developing world from @water.” Hudgens also holds a chalice in the accompanying photo, giving users a sense of its size and appearance. The gesture removes barriers preventing fans from ordering a chalice because they can already see the product they’ll receive upon purchase.
Hudgens is also well positioned to implement a cause marketing campaign. Studies have shown that Millennials are particularly socially conscious consumers compared to previous generations. In fact, 73% of Millennials reported they would spend more on a product if it was sold by a sustainable brand. As a millennial herself, Hudgens is well prepared to impart Stella Artois’ socially conscious message to an audience likely similar in age and personal values.
Results: With over 303,700 likes and 1,600 comments the post’s reach is of particular note.
Known for his role as the nerdier of two stepbrothers in the eponymous Nickelodeon hit show Drake and Josh, Josh Peck (@shuapeck) is now making a new name for himself as an influencer. While he continues to act in TV shows and movies, his activity on Vine, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram has helped him connect with fans — and now brands, too — through new outlets.
Peck’s five million Instagram followers can check in on his account for updates on his fun-filled life. He posts photos and videos of fun times with friends and family, and throwback photos to his time as a child star. Recently, he has posted Instagram posts promoting companies like Mucinex and Walmart.
Peck recently partnered with Wendy’s to promote its March Madness social media campaign. The brand is the official hamburger sponsor this year’s final four basketball tournament and is offering discounts and deals to users across social media during the month of March.
Wendy’s is also hosting a Tweet contest between Peck and three other influencers leading up to the event. In the form of one sponsored video, Peck promotes the contest using a hilarious basketball montage in which he’s too distracted to play because he’s talking about Wendy’s.
In the video, Peck’s verbal statements like, “I like things that are fresh, on the court and off. Which is why I love Wendy’s,” serves to draw attention to Wendy’s in a humorous way. Additionally, because the Tweet contest is on Twitter, his Instagram post serves to promote both the contest and the brand across social platforms, effectively broadening its reach to audiences who might not be Twitter users.
Results: To date, the video has garnered over 75,600 likes and 435 comments for a 2.8% engagement rate.
Two-time NBA Champion and Most Valuable Player, Steph Curry (@stephencurry30) is widely considered one of the best shooters in basketball history, setting the record for most three-pointers in a single season. His on-court performance has translated well to off-court pursuits — Curry has the best-selling jersey and his popularity among fans has helped him land a number of lucrative endorsements.
While TV ads and magazine shoots can become the norm for high profile athletes, Curry has been able to use social media to become an influencer as well as an athlete. He uses his Instagram account, which has 19.7 million followers, to post not just photos and videos about his basketball career, his personal life, and current events, but also his partnerships with brands like Under Armor and Infiniti.
Unlike the previous examples discussed, Curry’s partnership with Brita is the first to illustrate that sponsored campaigns with celebrities and influencers aren’t mutually exclusive. Curry partnered with Brita and popular YouTube Rudy Mancuso to create a hilarious video skit about new year’s resolutions.
In the skit, Curry helps Mancuso trade his disposable water bottles for a Brita filter and achieve a healthier lifestyle. To promote the YouTube video, Curry posted one sponsored Instagram video containing an excerpt from the skit.
Similar to Kevin Hart’s partnership with PokerStars and Usain Bolt, Curry’s post exposes him to fans in an unfamiliar yet exciting context. His humorous role in the skits presents a non-sports side of him to fans, making for a highly memorable campaign.
Mancuso alone boasts more than 4.2 million YouTube subscribers. However, Curry’s sponsored Instagram post serves to expand the reach of the skit to more than 19.7 million. The basketball player doubles down on this effort by linking directly to the video in his Instagram bio and including the CTA “Link in bio for more!” in the post caption.
Results: Of all the examples examined Curry’s boasted one of the highest engagement rates: 10.8%. His post has accumulated more than 1 million likes and 16,900 comments to date.