In the world of high fashion the partnerships between brands, celebrities and influencers has become an integral part of marketing strategy. From global music artists and A-List actors, to luxury influencers on social media, these strategic alliances not only serve as a potent tool to bridge the gap between brands and their discerning target audience, but also unleash the potential for exponential sales growth.
Get it right and the association between luxury brands and these stars provides visibility, additional credibility and access to untapped markets. Get it wrong and it can tarnish a brand’s reputation, create negative press and significant financial implications.
The format and arrangement of these partnerships may vary between traditional advertisements and content-led campaigns on social media, to representation at events such as catwalk shows and launch parties. Selecting the wrong candidate in any one of these arrangements can result in a single negative interaction that creates a cascade of reputational damage.
Consumers are extremely savvy and will identify any disconnect between a brand and the ambassador. Brands can ill afford an ambassador who does not genuinely embrace their role and the product – it must be believable.
In 2005, renowned Swiss watchmaker Raymond Weil signed a 14-month deal, valued at $3 million, with the actress Charlize Theron. As part of the agreement, Theron committed to exclusively wearing Raymond Weil watches during all her public appearances. However, in 2006, she appeared at a press conference wearing a Christian Dior timepiece which spread across various media outlets. Raymond Weil initiated legal action against Theron for $20 million, citing her breach of the contractual terms, which they won.
“Are we happy to be associated with this individual?” is the question fashion brands should be asking themselves. The response should not be based on gut feeling but in-depth intelligence, and analysis of historic data – such as social media posts, media coverage and financials.
Luxury brands need to focus not only on the individual circumstances of the ambassador but the broader context which they might be a part of. For instance at Paris Fashion Week this year, Dior received a backlash after it invited a Russian influencer and a supporter of the Ukraine invasion, to its show.
Selecting an ambassador who suits the brand is crucial. While it might be tempting to reach beyond the traditional audience, a mismatch can backfire.
In 2015, Volvo made a misstep by collaborating with US blogger Chriselle Lim, whose audience predominantly followed her for her fashion and beauty-related content. Chriselle had rarely, if ever, featured or expressed an interest in automobiles before the partnership was announced and there were questions about whether Volvo had conducted sufficient research before deciding to partner with her.
The suitability of an ambassador or influencer can vary depending on the brand’s image, target audience, and campaign goals. The size of an influencer’s following was once looked at as a key metric but fashion brands are seeking more nuanced signals, such as cultural relevance, in order to pick their ambassadors.
Brands are increasingly drawn to individuals with talent in areas beyond fashion such as sport, music and acting. Athletes can be excellent brand representatives; their dedication, discipline, and physical fitness are wholesome values which many brands would want to align themselves with. Recently we’ve seen England Lionesses Leah Williamson and Alessia Russo partner with Gucci and Oakley respectively while Italian fashion house, Prada, has been building its portfolio of partnership with sport stars in Asia – most recently partnering with the Chinese women’s football team. In the run up to the Paris Olympics, Paris fashion week saw a huge uptick in the number of athletes on the front row.
There’s often a natural synergy between music and fashion and increasingly fashion houses are moving towards partnerships with stars that have a broad appeal in key growth markets such as Asia-Pacific. Thanks to being digitally savvy and having an audience in so many countries, K-Pop stars are now being favoured by luxury brands who want their clothing worn in a diverse range of situations; so not only on the red carpet but also in music videos, TV shows, events and TikTok videos. These stars are seen as diverse and dynamic. K-Pop stars BTS have had a long relationship with LVMH, the company which owns Louis Vuitton and Dior, among others.
Unlike social media influencers whose earnings are dependent on partnerships, established stars whether that be in music or film, already have an income and don’t necessarily need the money from a partnership – for certain audiences this arrangement might come across as more genuine.
However the majority of creators, unlike film stars, are accessible on multiple social media platforms, have more diverse fan bases, and can jump on trends much more quickly than established A Listers.
Increasingly for luxury fashion brands, who you invite to your catwalk show is now a balancing act between traffic, social media engagement, and getting coverage in mainstream publications.
Even so some would argue there is a snobbery which exists between the mainstream media and content creators as exemplified by a recent incident at Milan Fashion Week. Gucci’s show featured a sunken pit where influencers were invited to sit, separated from the normal front row of buyers, dealers, journalists and critics. Although the set design had an artistic interpretation according to Gucci, some publishers took it as an opportunity to mock and ridicule them for being segregated.
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An authentic partnership between fashion brands and any ambassadors relies on affinity, genuineness and visibility which holds true for whatever kind of ambassador. But as brands look to more diverse representatives to promote them, the more they need to be aware of the potential risks of candidates and their backgrounds. InsightX can help inform your choice when it comes to selecting brand ambassadors, analysing the potential for risk and providing insight on brand alignment. To find out more about how we can help you do this and much more, please contact email@example.com.