Printer Friendly

Add dash to your bash with a celeb.

Add Dash to Your Bash with a Celeb

In recent years, more and more marketing and public relations consultants, and meeting/convention planners in the US have opened their eyes to the mass appeal of professional athletes, entertainers and others graced with celebrity status.

They can attract crowds to convention exhibits and black-tie fund-raisers, increase product sales and cause corporate executives to actually enjoy annual sales meetings.

It's a phenomenon based on hero worship, and a growing marketing tactic that can influence the all important bottom line.

Because of its expanding popularity, however, the use of celebrity spokespersons for special appearances has become increasingly sophisticated.

Planning and executing a celebrity appearance today requires close collaboration with an experienced consultant who represents a broad range of celebrities. Some celebs, however, are good at smoothing out some of the logistical bumps themselves.

Television's Oprah Winfrey, for example. On one occasion, Oprah wrapped up the day's show and raced for a plane to North Carolina, where she was to speak before a local women's organization. Still operating on the adrenaline of the morning's program, she became particularly anxious when the pilot announced their landing would be delayed and the plane would remain in a holding pattern for an indefinite amount of time. After much pleading, Oprah talked her way into the cockpit where, with the pilot's help, she made a radio call to the event organizers and explained her dilemma. The organizers, surprised by a patched-in call from a radio operator, graciously rescheduled the event. Even if you don't have a celebrity as resourceful as Winfrey, the following tips and guidelines can help ensure the success of celebrity appearances and speaking engagements.

* Find a qualified representative who knows and regularly works with a broad range of celebrities--from athletes to journalists--and who can provide insight into how the event can be structured for optimum results.

* Clearly define the goals of the event. Whether the event is designed to raise funds, stimulate product sales or simply entertain, understanding the objectives of the event is critical to the celebrity selection process.

For example, baseball's Harry Caray, "Voice of the Chicago Cubs," is known for his outgoing personality and his talent for "working" a crowd. During the filming of a Pizza Hut television commercial, his gregarious ways played havoc with the director who, on several occasions, had to go searching for Harry. In most cases, the director followed the sound of laughter to a trailer on the set where Harry was busy telling jokes and entertaining the set crew.

* Make a careful study of the audience demographics, the age range, occupations, education, and the ratio of men to women.

* For a particularly diverse audience, an entertainer, comedian, motivational speaker or well-known journalist may be your best selection, as opposed to a personality who may appeal to a more specific audience.

* Avoid the immediate temptation to seek the most popular celebrity of the day. While the "headliner" might effectively draw a crowd, consider whether that person is best suited for your needs and the expectations of your audience.

* Ask a lot of questions. Talk to the speaker's representative about prior appearances. find out if he or she is good with crowds, senior executives or children; is a good speaker, and is timely, reliable and flexible.

I was thankful for celebrity flexibility during a recent product promotion. Despite its "windy city" reputation, Chicago is hot in the summer -- the perfect place for Haagen-Dazs to introduce a new ice cream product. I helped coordinate the kick-off event in Chicago's outdoor Daley Center, featuring Chicago Cub Ryne Sandberg and Chicago Bear William "Refrigerator" Perry. A crowd of media and spectators gathered, company officials made speeches, the athletes stood with product in hand, and the sun continued to do what it does best. As the ice cream began to melt, Sandberg and Perry appeared ravenous as they rapidly devoured the gooey mess, while I repeatedly handed them fresh ice cream.

* Have alternatives in mind. If your first choice simply isn't available, having a second and third choice can eliminate the need to go back repeatedly to superiors or event committees for approval.

* Be realistic about the budget. A top name speaker like football coach Mike Ditka or television's Barbara Walters can cost US $15,000 to $25,000 for a one-hour appearance.

* If the event is more social than informative, consider using four well-known celebrities who could spend more one-on-one time with your guests, as opposed to a single "headliner."

* Be realistic about what to expect from a speaker or guest celebrity. Even the most patient celebrity has difficulty signing autographs for three straight hours. And only the most polished public speaker can hold the attention of an audience for more than about 30 minutes.

Chicago Bear's quarterback Mike Tomczak was scheduled to make an appearance at the Carson Pirie Scott department store on Chicago's famed State Street. The event was to be a simple one--two or three hundred shoppers and a couple of hours of autographs. I arrived at the store early for a final inspection, only to find more than 1,500 screaming teenagers waiting in line to meet the Chicago Bear. In less than two hours, I managed to have a stage constructed, hire extra security, arrange for boxes of extra photos to be delivered, organize 1,500 fans into an orderly line and create a system for dealing with the hundreds of gifts they had brought for Tomczak. Tomczak, seeming to take it all in stride, patiently signed autograph after autograph, and was a big hit with the crowd.

* Be aware of schedules. Television news anchors are rarely available to speak at dinners. Newspaper writers have afternoon deadlines. Sports reporters attend morning, afternoon and evening sporting events. Professional football players usually have only one free day a week during their seasons, and baseball players have mixed schedules of day and night games.

* Review the speaker's contract carefully with his or her representative. Information on the speaker's transportation needs, honorarium and length of appearance should all be included in the contract.

* Plan for the unexpected. Even the most carefully planned event can be affected when a plane is delayed, the coach calls an extra practice or a reporter is called away on breaking news. In these instances, a good representative can be prepared to find you a substitute speaker on short notice.

While there are many other factors to consider once you have decided that a celebrity appearance is the best strategy for the meeting, convention or special event, these guidelines and the guidance of a qualified representative will help simplify the process.

Darcy L. Bouzeos is a Chicago, Ill.-based sports and entertainment attorney.
COPYRIGHT 1989 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:includes related article on hiring foreign celebrities; celebrities at business meetings
Author:Bouzeos, Darcy L.
Publication:Communication World
Date:Sep 1, 1989
Previous Article:Communicating the fabled ESOP.
Next Article:One communicator's gold star is another's scarlet letter.

Related Articles
The art of speaker selection.
Make your next meeting sizzle: do something different...outrageous...spectacular, and attendees will be back for more.
Star struck.
Karen's page.
Celebrities counter the war.
Star poets and poet stars: the rise of the celebrity bard goes to the heart of what role verse plays in our lives.
Karen the editor's page.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters