Most startups dream of attracting a celebrity endorsement, and assume that it will take their startup to the stars. There have been some "famous" recent successes in this regard, such as Charlie Sheen using Twitter to promote Internships.com, as well as some failures, including MyFavorites.com using celebrities to promote the books they are reading.
Startups using celebrities is such a hot topic these days that Gary Vaynerchuck, noted author and entrepreneur, has coined a new term "star-ups" for the phenomenon. New books are popping up on the subject of how and when to seek celebrity endorsements, including one I just finished, "Will Work for Shoes," by Susan J. Ashbrook, who has courted celebrities for twenty years.
She helps you decide if celebrity endorsement is a viable and reasonable alternative for your business, and how do you go about selecting and approaching the right celebrity. Following is a summary of the challenges that Susan and other "experts" have outlined:
If you are selling to young consumers, Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber may be high on your list. For technology products, even well-recognized investors, such as John Doerr or Ron Conway, are seen as celebrities, and startups supported by these players are automatically elevated to a new level of credibility.
On the other hand, maybe you can emulate Priceline.com, whose official spokesperson, William Shatner, agreed to do the spots for free in exchange for stock in the company. The arrangement turned out to be quite profitable for Shatner, who has since made approximately $600 million from Priceline.com, despite the dot.com bust.
One of the inside secrets of finding and meeting the right people is working with charities. Celebrities have a passion for giving, and they respect people and companies who share their passion.
Many entrepreneurs and investors assume that the fascination with celebrities is a passing fad, and not worth the effort. But the evidence is just the contrary. With the advent of the high-speed Internet for videos, real-time messaging via Twitter, and everything going mobile via smartphones, I don't see things changing any time soon. The world now has an insatiable appetite for anything and everything celebrity. Be there if you dare.