How to create the perfect Celebrity Endorsement Video


Do celebrity endorsement videos really help your brand?Are celebrity endorsements effective? Yes and yes… but the devil is in the details.

There’s no denying the power and potential of celebrity endorsement. We live in a celebrity culture. How else do you explain non-stop coverage of sports and entertainment news. We’re socially programmed to like / crave / envy / desire / revere / need / stalk / love those in our society who are endowed with special gifts and abilities.

Google “are celebrity endorsements effective?” and you’ll discover a minefield of warnings and caveats about the risks of celebrity endorsement and the questionable return on such superficial investments.

So how then do you explain Nike’s yearly expenditure of upwards of half a billion dollars each year on celebrity athletes or Pepsi’s ongoing ongoing investment in celebrity pop musicians? Surely those businesses (and their accountants) must find value in these endorsements.

Which brings me to this Johnny Walker promotional video. This promo could be used as a case study in how to design the prototypical endorsement video.

In fact, I’ll build the argument for you:


How to build the perfect Celebrity Endorsement Video

1. Chose the celebrity that best suits your brand… that you can afford.

Don’t start with the concept because the celebrity is bigger than the concept. The idea should be ‘informed’ by the celebrity – that’s the power of celebrity. This is also where a great deal of the risk is.

If you’re a local brand, then you can only afford local talent and the risks are relatively low. If you’re a national or international brand, then the risks in choosing a celebrity are much higher.

If you can afford George Clooney… super, he’d add luster to just about any product imaginable. He’s the archetype of ‘cool’. Anything George is associated with will glow and hum, metaphorically speaking. Keep in mind that all A-listers are not created equal.

In this video.

Johnny Walker is the most widely distributed blended scotch whiskey in the world so there’s a great deal riding on who is chosen to represent this iconic brand. The choice of Giancarlo Giannini and Jude Law in this promo is inspired. Giannini is one of Italy’s national treasures and Jude Law plays the perfect foil and partner to Giannini’s old world charm. Johnny Walker chose well. Both actors personify ‘sophisticated cool ‘in this ad. I’d give the casting a 10/10 here.

2. Build a story that people will want to watch.

Once you’ve chosen your celebrity you have to build a story around them that suits their character. I wrote about a promo that Kahlua created using Jeff Bridges. Another A-list actor and another international alcohol brand. Jeff Bridges appears in a semi-reprisal of his iconic ‘dude’ role from ‘The Big Lebowski’ to promote one of the world’s great party drinks. With a built-in audience of ‘Dude’ and Jeff Bridge’s fans, it’s not difficult to come up with a storyline that suits the actor.

Build a story that people want to watch. If you read the story on paper and you shrug, then you should keep writing. A good story should always jump off the page and you should definitely be thinking ‘absolutely, I could see him/her in this role.’

In this video.

The title of the promo is ‘A gentleman’s wager’- which establishes the basic storyline.  The ‘bet’ makes you wonder what might come next and the terms of the wager (a dance number) make you wonder how on earth this might possibly work. It’s an intriquing premise that piques your interest. You want to find out what comes next. You can’t say that about most corporate videos.

The story also suits the positioning of the product. A couple of bored, rich dudes sipping scotch on a yacht in the Mediterranean – that’s how I picture myself when I sip my Johnny Walker (Red). I’d give the story a 9/10 (The dance sequence was great, but I would have preferred a ‘con’ or a car chase…) { Update: see Post Script at bottom.)

3. Execute really, really well.

There are two ways to do this. The first is hoping that a divine combination of luck and casting coalesce in the creation of a ‘hit’ video and the second is to hire the best talent you can afford. Execution is the hardest to do well and given that acquiring the right talent and developing a great story are also very difficult, it’s easy to see why most branded entertainment and celebrity endorsement videos are just not that good.

In this video.

 Johnny Walker hired A-list talent to execute this video. The video was directed by Jake Scott (Ridley Scott’s son) and was shot by John Mathieson who has worked as D.O.P. on movies such as Gladiator, August Rush and Robin Hood. Production design was done by Joseph Bennett who was responsible for the look of HBO’s “Rome.” Great music, great editing… and on it goes. Johnny Walker brought the ‘A’ team to the party and they really delivered. The video has a style and elegance that is rare in most promotional videos and Law and Giannini both deliver uber-cool performances.  I’d give the execution a 10 / 10 here as well.

So there you have it.

If you’re looking for the formula to develop the perfect celebrity endorsement video, it’s all rather quite simple:

  1. Find the perfect actor that best represents your brand,
  2. Build a great story around that character and
  3. Hire a world-class production team to deliver your video.

Good luck with that.


Post Script:

The good folks at Johnny Walker commissioned a follow up video appropriately entitled: A Gentleman’s Wager II.  Running at just over 11 minutes this new video illustrates just how difficult it is to re-create the glory of a great idea, well executed.

Jimm Fox


Jimm has been working in video and marketing for the last 25 years agency side, client side and in video production.

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