Business development · 8 October 2015

The secrets to winning celebrity endorsements from the likes of Richard Branson, Jennifer Lopez and David Gandy

Co-founder of The Flash Pack,  Lee Thompson,  caught the attention of Richard Branson with this selfie from the top of Christ The Redeemer statue in Rio De Janeiro Picture credit: The Flash Pack - please link online
Co-founder of The Flash Pack, Lee Thompson, caught the attention of Richard Branson with this selfie from the top of Christ The Redeemer statue in Rio De Janeiro
Winning celebrity endorsements can be a sure-fire way to achieving publicity and doesn’t always have to be a costly process. Business Advice spoke to several businesses that caught the attention of some big names, to find out how they succeeded.

Like many budding businessmen, Lee Thompson is a huge admirer of Richard Branson and had been for years. Unlike many other new businesses, Thompson’s travel company The Flash Pack, won an endorsement from the Virgin founder himself. It came about thanks to Thompson’s own adventurous spirit six months into his business, he was aware of the need to find a huge idea to tell the world about The Flash Pack.

Inspired by Branson’s notorious love of stunts, like the British Airways can’t get it up? balloon over the London eye, Thompson wheedled his way into persuading the archdiocese in Rio de Janeiro to let him climb the Christ the Redeemer statue. His photojournalism background didn’t hurt, and I climbed to the very top, popped out of Jesus’ crown and snapped a selfie capitalising on the two biggest trends of 2014 selfies and football.

Timing as with most PR stunts was crucial, and releasing the photo two weeks before the World Cup saw it go viral with over 100m views, coverage across numerous publications, with Thompson appearing on BBC and CNN. A tweet to Branson, with a nod to him as the inspiration was retweeted extensively, before he replied I loved it and I’m really jealous!. Virgin then wrote articles about it, with Branson himself also blogging about the savvy idea.

The association with Branson wasn’t just effective but long-lasting too. The Flash Pack made it to the top ten of Virgin’s Pitch to Rich competition and just missed out on first place during public voting. While attempting to win the attention of voters and further wow Branson, Thompson sent a Flash Pack Galactic? cardboard rocket into space with a helium balloon, complete with a foamex cut out of Branson. Thompson used a GoPro camera to track the balloon.

Thompson impressed Branson again with another stunt this time involving the Virgin founder himself

It served as a cheeky nod to Branson’s Virgin Galactic project, which has signed up 700 customers for sub-orbital trips. While he couldn’t comment during competition, Branson loved the idea. As Thompson put it, you’ve got to be creative to reach out to people like him.

PR and marketing stunts are one way new businesses with constrained finances can start turning heads at an early stage and you don’t necessarily need an expert for it, just different ideas and some creativity. Thompson’s efforts worked so well because they tied in with the message he wanted his brand to convey. The Flash Pack offers adventure holidays for both groups and solo travellers infusing the soul of a backpacker with the style of a jetsetter, and the Christ the Redeemer picture was an effective way of visualising that.

It also, of course, relates well to Richard Branson and his daring attitude to business and new ventures. Thompson feels this is important if you’re going after a celebrity endorsement if you want someone in particular to endorse your business, make sure you know how to appeal to them. Do something relevant to the celebrity you are trying to work with and impress them with something amazing. Richard Branson has always done attention-grabbing marketing and that’s what we do at The Flash Pack, he said.

Another small business that tied up well with a suitable celebrity was high-protein, low-fat ice-cream brand Wheyhey when it caught the attention of supermodel David Gandy. One of the co-founders Greg Duggan, was a former model and met Gandy through a mutual friend at V Festival in 2013, where they discussed the product.

Wheyhey founders Damien Kennedy and Greg Duggan
Wheyhey founders Damien Kennedy and Greg Duggan
Gandy invested in the brand that year, telling Vogue he liked to support new, innovative British people and brands, describing Wheyhey as a guilt-free answer to one of our favourite treats. The result was pretty instantaneous.

our followers on social platforms pretty much doubled which exposed us to a whole new audience, Duggan explained. An increase in press coverage followed as everyone wanted to know about the protein ice-cream that had David hooked. Gandy’s endorsement of Wheyhey also reflects the importance of utilising any and all contacts networking may be an old route to success, but it’s certainly not a stale one.

As Duggan pointed out, such meetings often snowball into more opportunities. Through David’s contacts in the fashion world, we were able to get Wheyhey involved in London Fashion Week, he said. Models and attendees were given the ice cream at numerous big name events.

Gandy's endorsement has done wonders for the brand
Gandy’s endorsement has done wonders for the brand



Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

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