The use of celebrities in marketing materials is a phenomenon that has been around for a while. Most people wouldn’t believe that celebrity endorsements in advertising were an invention of the 19th century when people of the day with social clout used their image to help certain products sell better. In a sense, little has changed since then, but everything has changed in another.

We still have famous people engaging in commercial partnerships with brands. Everything else is entirely different. The definition of celebrity has changed. It’s about follower numbers, engagement, and reach over social media —not every celebrity will have what it takes.

The space where brands, influencers, new celebrities, and consumers interact has also changed. The nature of the partnerships is different, too, and it’s often tricky from the outside perspective to gauge what brands get from engaging in celebrity partnerships. And that’s where ROI comes in.

“Return on investment is a crucial metric for brands to gauge how effective the partnership has been,” says Jordan Lintz. “But in the digital age, sales figures aren’t the sole input for calculating an ROI. Other tangible and intangible benefits need to be considered, too.”

Jordan J. Lintz is the CMO of HighKey Enterprises, a modern agency that works with the top one percent of influencers and business owners, which he founded with his brothers Luke and Jackson. Lintz has worked with a gamut of celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, Khloé Kardashian, DaBaby, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Kevin Hart, and 6in9ine, just to name a few. One of the agency’s forte is organizing influencer partnerships, which Lintz sees as a highly effective way to reach specific goals.

“When partnering with celebrities and influencers, brands benefit by gaining exposure to an organic audience,” Lintz says. “Our strategies have translated into increased engagement, more views, all the important metrics for an online presence.”

Coming up with hard numbers might be challenging for a variety of reasons. The best estimates from Influencer Marketing Hub’s The State of Benchmark Marketing 2023: Benchmark Report are that the influencer marketing industry will top $21 billion this year.

The confidence in this type of marketing’s ability to deliver is still high, with 83% of responders believing it to be an effective form of marketing, which indicates that people are seeing a decent return on their influencer bucks. 82% of respondents said they’d allocate a budget for influencer marketing, another vote of confidence for influencer-brand partnerships.

Much easier than actually calculating the ROI, and certainly a step that precedes it, is to figure out the actions necessary for running a good influencer campaign. As with any other campaign, an influencer-brand collab needs to have goals and a set of metrics that could be used to quantify the success of that campaign. There should also be a way to track these metrics — without that, there’s no measuring the ROI.

Finding the right influencer for the collaboration is critical for getting the best possible ROI on an influencer partnership. Lintz has a set of criteria he always adheres to for his clients.

“We can go for a top-level celebrity, but some celebrities aren’t willing to do it. So that’s the number one criterion — a celebrity’s willingness to do it. Number two is how famous they are,” Lintz explains. “And then number three is how relevant they are, how much engagement they have on their Instagram. There are super famous people with terrible engagement.”

Other agencies that offer different brand-influencer partnership models might look to varying points of match between the two. Having similar values can be incredibly important for some brands.

And then, there’s the issue of the size of the investment. In Lintz’s experience, some celebrities and influencers will not engage with certain types of partnerships regardless of budget. As the head of a company that’s paid millions of dollars to celebrities for their deals, Lintz is confident that he can get to some A-listers, but not all.

The way today’s influencer marketing works, however, A-listers and the biggest influencers aren’t the prerequisites for an effective campaign that offers decent returns. Working with micro-influencers, people with more minor, dedicated followings who typically create niche content might fare much better for some brands and campaigns.

Micro-influencers need to be more adequate for the type of campaign HighKey Clout specializes in, but they can deliver that return in the right campaign. And that’s the core of getting the best ROI on celebrity partnerships.

“Celebrity partnerships open up many options and have put brands on the map,” Lintz explains. “Brands get exposure, celebrities put their clout to work, and the people who follow them get the rewards. And while celebrities’ clout and their fans’ happiness might not be a part of the equation for the ROI from brands’ standpoint, it still makes this a great marketing model to use.”

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