Ever since advertising began celebrities have been paid to promote products. But what if you don’t have the big budgets of the FTSE companies?
Celebrity endorsement has played a major role in building the Vitae brand – we didn’t spend tens of thousands, but we did have a clear strategy and a clear value proposition.
We started by creating a list of celebrities who shared similar beliefs and passions to us. We reached out using a variety of channels; social media, email, etc. We sent a short, friendly message clearly outlining our idea and proposal. We followed up if they didn’t reply, but we didn’t spam them.
Reaching out to those celebrities through social media bagged us endorsements from the likes of singer Emeli Sandé and radio DJ Yinka Bokinni. From there, word spread quickly.
Soon Richard Branson took notice. I was invited to become a Virgin Startup Ambassador and meet Branson at his house. He seemed impressed with the business idea and the watches themselves, going on to personally endorse the brand on a number of occasions.
We focused on nurturing good relationships with a few big-name and/or well-connected celebrities at first. Not only did they lend you more credibility when we met other celebrities, but they also told their connections, growing our supporter base organically.
Coincidences do happen – and sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time and grabbing the opportunity. For example, I bumped into Philip Schofield in a Vineyard in Cape Town, I shared our vision and he was glad to be involved.
Everyone we’ve interacted with has been extremely positive about the business. They love the style of the watches, but more importantly, they were inspired by the fact that we’re using a fashion brand to change lives. They’re often surprised by the power and simplicity of our business concept.
Celebrities get asked for endorsements every day – they’re busy people. If you want them to sit up and take notice, then you have to have a unique and compelling selling proposition. Something that makes you different and interesting.
For us, it’s the charity element. We support local South African charity House of Wells in their mission to get poorer kids into education. But we don’t talk about “giving 10 per cent to charity”, because it lacks tangibility. We talk about giving kids two school uniforms, allowing them to attend school and get an education. People can picture a kid at school and what that means to that child and their family.
It’s also important to grab every opportunity. I was selected by Virgin to become a Virgin Start-Up Ambassador and went to meet Richard Branson at his house…but I forgot to take a watch with me to give to him! I was gutted at my missed opportunity.
Later, I was asked to be on a panel with Richard Branson. This time I made sure that I took a watch with me. I gave it to him in front of the live audience and he not only paid for the watch with cash, he also gave me his watch in exchange!
It was an amazing moment and one I’m fortunate to have captured on camera. It’s one of the high points of my career!
Finally, if you truly believe in what you’re doing, that energy, that enthusiasm, will become infectious. And celebrities are just like other customers – if they believe in you and your brand, they will support you.
For a list of celebrities endorsing Vitae see: https://www.vitaelondon.com/pages/wallofvitae
William Adoasi is the founder and CEO of Vitae London, an ethical watch brand seeking to advance social justice. Vitae London works within several South African provinces where education is free, but much of the youth are unable to take advantage of such learning opportunities due to their lack of access to school equipment, such as uniforms and shoes, which are required to attend school. Each watch purchased from Vitae London’s classic range of watches supplies a child with two sets of school uniform, a bag and footwear to see them through the year.