4 ways to make the most of celebrity ambassadors

Associations with a high-profile name can help a charity event, explains Liliana Sanelli, if special considerations are made.

Many charities dream of securing the support of a celebrity ambassador. While such an association undoubtedly helps, is it actually worth the effort it takes to secure their ambassadorship?

1: Understand the gains

Having celebrities attend an event, or be its public face, will increase ticket sales and publicity, and offer access to new contacts that the charity can leverage. An example of this was the performance of John Farnham with Olivia Newton-John at the 2014 Olivia Newton-John Gala. This led to a sold-out gala and opened up many partnership opportunities.

2: MaCharlie Pickering in the Walk to Carep out the boundaries

The value of celebrities’ personal brands comes with boundaries they won’t cross, so establish what they will and won’t do for your organisation from the start. This helped Carers Victoria successfully enlist The Project’s Charlie Pickering as its ‘Walk to Care’ ambassador, although he was very specific about what he would commit to and when.

3: Weigh up cost vs investment

A celebrity ambassador costs organisations in time, effort and expectations. Honestly discussing this is crucial to the partnership - as Muscular Dystrophy Foundation Australia did when asking Jerry Lewis to perform at its events in 2011. While his performance time was donated, sponsorship deals could be created to cover his flights, accommodation, entourage and more.

4: Have damage control in place

Charities working with celebrities must prepare for the unexpected. This occurred recently when Alec Baldwin cancelled his appearance at a gala dinner in Melbourne to raise awareness for Bully Zero Australia Foundation, shortly before the event. As he was the major attraction for attendees, the event had to be postponed. Charities must ensure they have event cancellation or abandonment insurance for circumstances like this, or it can prove very expensive.

Liliana Sanelli is Chief Executive Officer of the events management company, Perfect Events, and has been a leader in the Melbourne events industry for more than 16 years.

A full version of this article will be published in the April/May issue of Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine, which is out on April 14.