The name of the game

A celebrity en­dorse­ment can be a pow­er­ful thing. Hafsa Lodi goes be­hind the scenes of a bur­geon­ing in­dus­try to dis­cover that even seem­ingly im­promptu posts, pic­tures and ap­pear­ances have o en been elab­o­rately staged by brands, work­ing with third-party exp

The National - News - Luxury - - ENDORSEMENTS -

Ara­bic mu­sic plays in tune to the dips and dives of The Dubai Mall’s danc­ing foun­tains. The crowd at the nearby Burj Park is so mes­merised by the sight that they fail to no­tice the small crowd and cam­era crew tail­ing an at­trac­tive In­dian woman in a strik­ing striped dress. The woman, who also car­ries an em­bel­lished Gucci Diony­sus bag, is none other than Bol­ly­wood ac­tress Sonam Kapoor, who, while vis­it­ing the UAE to pro­mote the Dubai Shop­ping Fes­ti­val, is be­ing led through the park dur­ing Mar­ket OTB, where about 100 home-grown brands are show­cas­ing their wares. Once word gets out that the woman is, in fact, one of Bol­ly­wood’s best-known fig­ures, who has more than 8.6 mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram alone, ex­hibitors across fash­ion, ac­ces­sories and home decor are quick to re­act, mak­ing their way through the crowd to hand their prod­ucts to one of Kapoor’s crew mem­bers – or, if they’re lucky, to Kapoor her­self. The cool air is brim­ming with high hopes; know­ing there’s even the re­motest of chances that the ac­tress might wear or post a photo of one of their pieces is enough to send the ven­dors’ imag­i­na­tions into over­drive.

A celebrity en­dorse­ment can be an in­valu­able mar­ket­ing as­set for a brand. When Kapoor posts a photo on In­sta­gram, for in­stance, she av­er­ages more than 100,000 likes, and her videos can get more than 500,000 views. Dubai-based jew­ellery de­signer Vinita Michael is for­tu­nate enough to have had In­dian ac­tresses, in­clud­ing Kapoor, wear her pieces.

“It def­i­nitely has a huge pos­i­tive in­flu­ence, both on sales and your so­cial-me­dia pres­ence, when a celebrity sports one of your de­signs at an im­por­tant event,” Michael con­firms.

But very few brands have ac­cess to A-lis­ters and “in­flu­encers”, the term cur­rently be­ing used to de­scribe so­cial-me­dia per­son­al­i­ties who have large fol­low­ings and pub­lish vir­tual posts in re­turn for free prod­ucts and/or pay­ment. Be­cause Michael pre­vi­ously worked in In­dia and has main­tained con­nec­tions with key ed­i­tors and stylists, she has been able to adorn Bol­ly­wood ac­tresses, but is now look­ing to ex­pand into the Amer­i­can mar­ket. As a re­sult, the de­signer re­cently signed with Cre­ate Con­sul­tancy, a new en­ter­prise that helps de­sign­ers, par­tic­u­larly those based in the Mid­dle East, to con­nect with celebri­ties in the United States.

Lis­seth Vil­lalo­bos, founder of Cre­ate Con­sul­tancy and global di­rec­tor of events pro­duc­tion and man­age­ment com­pany The AZDEF Group, started re­cruit­ing her first batch of brands in Novem­ber, right a er she fa­cil­i­tated the first over­seas edi­tion of the US-based Sim­ply Stylist con­fer­ence in Dubai. She no­ticed that many de­sign­ers who were pur­su­ing celebrity place­ments over­seas were pay­ing ex­or­bi­tant amounts of money to United King­dom- and US-based PR agen­cies. “They think of the Mid­dle East and they think of money, which is fine for the de­sign­ers who are es­tab­lished, but what about those who don’t have that kind of fi­nan­cial back­ing?”

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