Let’s Make a (Celebrity) Deal

celebrity deal tips

After living in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years, the novelty of meeting a celebrity has worn off.   But in the marketing world, establishing the right celebrity deal is still one of the most exciting things you can do for your brand.

Recently I was asked to create and pitch a beauty concept for one of the world’s most renowned celebrities – beloved as an actor, singer and global beauty icon.  According to her manager, she was done with endorsement deals and wanted to create a line that she owned and controlled. I was absolutely giddy over the prospect and my head was spinning with ideas – with this celebrity the sky was the limit.

After a very positive initial meeting, I ended up spending a massive amount of time crafting a strategy and product mix that extended across cosmetics, skin care, nail care, body care and nutricueticals and that would be rolled out through a combination of retail, online and on-air distribution.  I had to combine every ounce of my creativity, industry knowledge and gut instinct and put it all into a 30-minute give ‘em all you got presentation.  The whole process was truly exhilarating.

This was not my first time at the celebrity rodeo.  In 1999, I pitched Britney Spears’ management team, right before she became a huge star.  The concept was a retail cosmetics brand with the rationale that owning her own line would ensure that she had equity in something that could sustain with or without her singing career.  We came close to closing that deal, but in the end, Britney (or her people) chose the fast cash – an endorsement for Herbal Essences (as part of the deal Herbal Essences helped finance her upcoming tour).

So back to my big moment.  I had casually met the celebrity during my first meeting (which took place on location where she was filming her most recent movie).  But for the big show, it took place in a boardroom with just her manager and her sister (who would be the liaison during the product development process).  The meeting was a success, but as of today, nothing has moved forward.  But that doesn’t mean the door is completely closed.  Until I read about another deal going through, I could still get a phone call saying they are ready to take the next step.

In the meantime, here are some celebrity deal tips on how to land a star-studded deal without giving up the farm in the process.   These tips can also apply to securing a high level executive position.

  1. Don’t Give it Away.  One of my challenges was determining how much to include in the presentation.  I knew I had some truly winning ideas, but I also knew that if I revealed them all they could easily steal them.   So you have to walk a fine line. Give just enough to generate interest and excitement but then make them sign a non-disclosure and get your deal in place before revealing all your secrets.  Don’t give away a copy of the presentation either.  Show it during the pitch only – no handouts.
  2. Get a Contract.   Get a guaranteed contract with a clause that they can’t fire you for 12-18 months.  They if they do, they have to buy out your contract so you are still getting paid no matter what.
  3. Get Control.  Make sure that staff hirings/firings have to be approved by you.  You don’t want someone you work well with getting replaced by one of their internal people.
  4. Get Equity.  Consider what the deal is worth and what a reasonable percentage of the back-end would be.  Also consider co-patenting any products you develop – that way if you get fired, walk away or they sell the business, you will still earn money from the venture.
  5. Get a Lawyer. You need a bulldog lawyer that will go to battle for you because when this kind of money is involved, no one is giving up anything without a fight. As evidenced from the Sony hacks, Hollywood shows no mercy.

Finally, be ready to walk.  It’s easy to get swept away by the prospect of fame and fortune, but the reality is that any opportunity of this magnitude is going to require everything short of selling your soul.  So if you can’t get a deal that makes good financial (and emotional) sense for you, it’s better to walk away with your dignity intact.

-C.M.

Have celebrity deal tips of your own? We’d love to hear from you.

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