Brand-spokesperson-fit should feel natural: How CHEQ found a perfect fit in NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo

One of the most tempting shortcuts an emerging brand can take on it's path to awareness, is deploying a celebrity brand spokesperson.Guy Tytunovich and Daniel Avital

Hiring a brand spokesperson is a shortcut to awareness

 The benefits are obvious - your brand gets instant attention, helping cut through the clutter. You’re automatically positioned as a contender in the space, for the simple fact that you could afford a famous spokesperson. You also get to associate your brand with the values that celebrity is most famous for.  

But just because someone’s famous, doesn’t make them a good brand-spokesperson

Hiring a celebrity for their fame alone often doesn’t work. Campaigns with celebrity spokespersons can look clumsy and out-of-touch if the connection with the brand is forced. What typically generates a more natural connection between brand and spokesperson, is if they both share a unique and similar quality or value. The best way for marketers to explore spokesperson potential, is to simply ask themselves ‘what is that one thing we want to be famous for’, and find a spokesperson that best represents that. When brands fail to go through that thought-process, they end up with an unnatural fit.

Finding the perfect fit with a retired NBA legend

At CHEQ, we found our fit when we announced the hiring of 4x NBA defensive player of the year Dikembe Mutombo as our Chief Blocking Officer. As a cybersecurity company that blocks ad-fraud accurately and in real-time, our value proposition always revolved around accurate blocking. When we decided to launch our new brand campaign, we asked ourselves ‘who is the one person most associated with blocking?’. The answer was clear - Dikembe Mutombo, the greatest shot blocker in NBA history. It was a no-brainer. So, we proceeded to contact Dikembe, hire him for the role and launched our first joint campaign titled, "Block with the Best". That’s another sign of natural brand-spokesperson fit - when your tagline describes your spokesperson as well as it describes your brand.

From spokesperson to the "face and DNA of the brand"

CHEQ’s first campaign with Dikembe garnered widespread industry attention, media coverage and industry awards. Creatively speaking, we wanted to keep the creative stupid-simple. Dikembe was famous for blocking and we wanted to be famous for blocking too, so obviously the creative had to reflect that. We shot a commercial showing Dikembe announcing his appointment as Chief Blocking Officer, explaining that he was selected because he ‘knows how to block’. Then, the spot proceeded to show Dikembe performing ridiculous acts of blocking, including a ‘sun-block’ (while covered with every conceivable form of sun protection) and a ‘cock-block’ in which he ruins a couple’s romantic moment. It was goofy, memorable and revolved around dikembe’s most recognizable trait. That’s why it worked.

But a spokesperson’s role has to constantly evolve

One of the problems brands run into with a celebrity endorsement, is that it grows tiresome and predictable after a while. We realized we couldn’t play on the Chief Blocking Officer gag forever. When we came to shoot our second campaign with Dikembe, our value proposition had evolved to focus on our ability to expand our client’s reach. That’s how we came up with the concept for the second campaign - a 90’s sitcom theme song ad titled "Mr. Reach". Again, we played on one of Dikembe’s natural traits, his length (Mutombo is an incredible 7"2 tall) - and used it to tell the story of how we help clients boost their reach.

Spokesperson success isn’t just about the creative - it’s about forming a connection

We started out looking for a face for our brand, but ended up with a friend and partner. One of the lessons we learnt from this process was that for a partnership like this to work, you have to create a genuine connection between your company and your spokesperson. With Dikembe it was easy. When we first went to Atlanta to meet him and sign the contract, we were expecting he’d give us 15 minutes of his time and then brush us off politely. Instead, we found the kindest person who spent 3 hours getting to know us and our company. He then drove us back to our hotel and invited us for breakfast the next day. Right away, it felt like a friendship and not just a transaction. Since then Dikembe has become a true friend of the family. Another element that made the bond even stronger, was that we made Dikembe a real part of the team, giving him equity in the company and making him an official advisory board member, so that we could learn from his experience as a competitor and a winner.

Guy Tytunovich is the founder and CEO of CHEQ, and Dan Avital is the chief strategy officer of CHEQ.

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