In recent years, foreign companies in China are racing to secure sponsorship deals with leading celebrities. The role of brand ambassadors is becoming increasingly important for establishing the important brand pillars of trust and quality. Anything from vitamin supplements to luxury jewellery and restaurant chains are utilising the power of Chinese celebrities and their social media followings to boost their brand’s exposure and credibility. In a booming market, which is saturated with new brands and products, how can foreign brands capture their market share – the answer seems to be brand ambassadors.
These people are employed by a company to promote its products and are specifically chosen as they are seen to embody the brand, its values and image. Their role is to leverage their status and social media following in order to strengthen the company and influence customer purchasing.
Restaurant Chain Started by American Chef Utilises the Power of Chinese Tennis Champion, Li Na
Li Na, winner of two Grand Slam titles; the French Open in 2011 and the Australian Open in 2014, is China and Asia’s most successful tennis champion ever. She has entered into a long-term sponsorship deal with restaurant chain, Element Fresh. Element Fresh is one of China’s leading restaurant chains, it is best known for it’s western-inspired, simple meals; combining great taste, variety and nutrition. The restaurant chain supports major sports events like the Tennis Masters, the China Open and other sports from international to grassroots levels. With Li Na’s endorsements on the restaurants website and in-store, along with her involvement in developing a new seasonal menu, the chain that started in 2002 is gaining much attention nationally and expanding into new cities each year. The restaurant is now in 29 locations, and nine cities across China.
Popular Chinese Actress Fan Bingbing Helps International Brands Enter China
Another example is one of the most famous Chinese actresses, Fan Bingbing, who is best-known to international audiences for her role in X-Men: Days of Future Past. She was the only non-American to make the 2015 rankings compiled by Forbes magazine, which – for the first time ever – featured a truly global list of the biggest earning Hollywood actresses. In the Mainland Chinese version of Iron Man 3, Fan Bingbing plays a doctor who helps treat Tony Stark. The producers added 4 minutes of footage for Chinese audiences featuring Fan Bingbing, which western audiences will never see. This is one of the main reasons Iron Man 3 was such a box office success, earning almost USD$100 million in the first two weeks in China.
She may also currently be the most successful brand ambassador in China. Not only is she an ambassador for Louis Vuitton, she’s also a face of many more international big brands like L’Oreal, Moët & Chandon, Mercedes-Benz and Adidas. Due to her influence, many international brands with limited recognition in China have been able to see increased growth in the China market, like jewellery brand Chopard, where Fan has acted as the brand’s China ambassador.
Her personal Weibo account, an equivalent to Twitter, has over 40 million followers and her own studio, Fan Bingbing Studio, has over 2.5 million followers. In January 2014, the star was reported to have generated USD$74 million in ecommerce revenue.
Celebrity Endorsements Extend to Even Vitamin Supplements
It’s not just luxury international brand’s leveraging the power of celebrities. Australian vitamin supplement giant, Blackmores, has signed up Aussie Olympic medallist, Ian Thorpe to boost sales in the Asian markets. The strategy certainly worked for the Aussie brand with profits increasing by 83% in just one year. Its sales in China have gone from just $2 million in 2013/14 to $75 million.
So it would seem that no matter what brand you are thinking of taking to the Chinese market it’s best to draw on the strength of local or international celebrities. As we can see from the Element Fresh example above, it’s not just the huge international brands that are doing is. So who will be the ambassador for your brand in China?
If you’d like help finding a suitable brand ambassador for your brand contact Greg from 3mandarins at email@example.com