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Digital influencers overtake celebrities as the most popular choice for brand endorsements in 2017; niche ‘unconventional’ talent enter the mix

With social media now critical to all communications, digital influencers play a central role in branded storytelling. This has placed more pressure on traditional celebrity ambassadors to up their game online, and forced marketers to adopt a more blended approach to talent-led campaigns in this new age of influence.

London, United Kingdom. Digital influencers represent the largest majority group that brands have worked with for endorsement and commercial opportunities this year. According to ‘The Age of Influence’ research report, 61% of survey respondents say they have worked with digital influencers in the past 12 months, and the majority believe digital-born talent will be best suited to endorsement opportunities that they have coming up.

Additionally, apart from celebrity and digital influencers, the report marks the emergence of a third strand of influencer to enter the mix this year. Niche or ‘unconventional’ talent is set to become the new ‘sweet spot’ for marketers in 2018.

Findings from the report underscore the shifting digital marketing landscape as a new breed of talent attach itself to the traditional celebrity endorsement space – changing the rules of engagement as we know it.

The most comprehensive of its kind on the topic, the report was released today by Celebrity Intelligence, the leading celebrity and influencer engagement platform, in association with Fashion & Beauty Monitor.

Key findings from the report include:

Digital influencers are the most popular choice for brand endorsements
61% of respondents say they have worked with digital influencers in the past 12 months, compared with 57% who have worked with singers or musicians, and approximately half who have worked with TV actors and models. Additionally, the largest majority of survey respondents (44%) believe digital influencers will be best suited to endorsement opportunities that they have coming up in the near future.

Talent-led campaigns are delivering strong ROI
Survey respondents say that for every £1 ($1.34) spent on a talent-led campaign, brands are getting an average of £17.21 ($23.08) back.

Data is becoming more critical
59% of survey respondents say that data and insight relating to a talent’s audience and followers has proven the most useful in identifying who to work with.

Having a relevant audience or following is of utmost importance
In 2017, having a relevant audience or following is the most important attribute brands are looking for in a celebrity or influencer, with 85% of respondents citing this as “critical” or “very important”. Additionally, 41% of brands claim a celebrity’s audience and how it resonates with their own target audience is the deciding factor in terms of who they decide to work with.

Budgets set to increase for 42%
42% of respondents said their budgets would increase moderately or significantly in the next 12 months.

Social media is placing increasing pressure on celebrities
33% of survey respondents believe it’s critical a celebrity has high levels of engagement on social media with the right audience, for them to be an attractive proposition.

Marketers continue to identify celebrities and influencers manually
Three-quarters of respondents are continuing to identify influencers and celebrities to work with via manual research across social media platforms and forums, etc. Additionally, almost half (47%) of respondents cite being able to identify celebrities who resonate with their target audience, as their greatest challenge.

Campaign-specific contracts are on the rise
In 2017, only 8% of brands are using celebrities for long term contracts (compared to 10% in 2016), highlighting one of the most critical ways in which digital influencers have impacted the celebrity marketing space. Instead, campaign-specific contracts have risen in popularity, with approximately a third of survey respondents saying they generally choose to work with celebrities in this way.

Niche and emerging talent will rise in popularity
Female niche influencers seem set to rise in popularity over the next 12 months, for approximately three quarters of respondents.

“The findings from this year compared to our 2016 report, demonstrates the impact digital influencers have had on brand endorsements and the marketing value they have delivered,” said Megan Falconer-Taylor, Director of Product at Celebrity Intelligence. “Does this mean the end of traditional celebrity-led campaigns? Quite the opposite! To have a truly long-term and scaleable digital marketing strategy, marketers need to blend celebrities with digital influencers to offer deeper layers of engagement for consumers. Only then will we close the gap between the worlds of ‘celebrity’ and social talent and understand the true meaning of influence.”

The report marks the next phase in Celebrity Intelligence’s commitment in providing all the data and insights that drive celebrity marketing forward.

‘The Age of Social Influence’ report informs on the current state of influence, the opportunities and risks posed by digital technology, the rise of social influencers and its impact on celebrity culture, the trends and spends for the year ahead and what factors equate to success on talent-led campaigns today.

The full report can be read here:

Methodology and Sample
This is the second research report published by Celebrity Intelligence that explores the impact digital media has had on talent-led brand partnerships and endorsements.

There were 270 marketing specialists who responded to the research request this year, which took the form of an online survey. Respondents included in-house brand marketers, agencies, consultants and media owners.

This report features in-depth opinions from brands, agencies, publicists, independent consultants and influencers, including in-depth case studies from leading brands.

Contributors include Insanity Group, Warm Street, ITB Worldwide, East of Eden, L’Oréal, The Body Shop, Tanya Burr, Michelle Goodall, the International Institute for Anti-Ageing and Talent Republic. Interviews were carried out over the phone and by email in October 2017

About Celebrity Intelligence
Celebrity Intelligence is a powerful data intelligence tool that combines the knowledge and insights marketers need to deliver a successful celebrity and influencer marketing strategy.

From emerging talent to mainstream tastemakers, Celebrity Intelligence helps businesses worldwide to discover and connect with only the most relevant celebrities and influencers.

Twitter: (UK) @CelebIntelUK (US) @CelebIntelUSA
Tweet the report using the hashtag #ageofInfluence

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