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Luxury Learns Not All Influencers Are Created Equal—And What That Means for Turnover

Not all celebrity influencers are created equal—and that’s a lesson some luxury brands have learned the hard way.

While the bottom-line payoff that comes with celebrity partnerships seems promising, choosing the right high-profile personality comes with its share of risk. With an average 4 percent lift in turnover once an endorsement deal is inked, the right celebrities can be lucrative brand partners.

In its Industry Report on Celebrity Endorsements: Fashion & Retail, data-driven celebrity ranking firm Spotted sheds light on luxury’s best- and worst-performing influencer partnerships, delving into why some celebs fail to drive dollars.

The biggest takeaway from Spotted’s findings: luxury lags mass-market brands in nailing the right celeb tie-up, tending to “make weaker celebrity decisions” overall. Spotted CEO Janet Comenos thinks this has to do with high-end labels continued emphasis on the intangible qualities that a celebrity might inspire, rather than focusing on cold, hard facts. “Luxury brands tend to be more dismissive of data than mass-market brands,” she explained. “The creative directors of these high-end labels tend to use celebrities as creative ‘muses,’ even if every indication shows that the celebrity is a poor choice.”

Spotted analyzed celebrities based on audience match (age, income, gender and geographic details of celeb vs. brand’s target demographics); perception (how people feel about whether a celeb embodies the brand’s image and values); and risk profile (whether the celeb has been linked to scandal and chances of causing future furor).

Some of those most disappointing endorsements? Versace’s deal with model Christy Turlington, which led to Spotted describing the luxury house’s celeb strategy as “one of the worst in the industry.” While all of the brand’s celebrity endorsements get low marks on the consumer approval front, Spotted pronounced the 49-year-old catwalker a mismatch based on personality (scoring in just the 36th percentile) whose audience doesn’t overlap enough with the Italian house’s desired demographic. Out of a possible 100 points, Versace’s miscues earned the brand a score of just 1.0. Spotted also said Versace’s endorsements are the riskiest of all brands analyzed, whether luxury or mass appeal.

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Also getting the thumbs down for celebrity strategies were Nordstrom (5.3 points), Fendi (14.6 points), Tommy Hilfiger (22.5 points) and Balmain (32.5 points). Iris Law for Burberry and Shayne Oliver for Diesel were among the worst-performing endorsements. Kaia Gerber failed on many fronts; Cindy Crawford’s mini-me daughter underperformed for Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs and Versace.

With a perfect score of 100, Rolex took the No. 1 spot as the brand with the best celebrity strategy, largely for its productive relationship with tennis superstar Roger Federer, an endorsement deal that earned 92.7 points for the No. 7 spot. Dior’s strategy comes in second best with 89.6 points, largely on the backs of relationships with Hollywood leading ladies Jennifer Lawrence (whose influence earned the No. 21 spot with 86.2 points) and Natalie Portman (No. 26 with 85.1 points). Moncler’s 88.2 points propelled the outerwear brand to the No. 3 spot for top celeb strategies, while Chanel ranked No. 7 with 67.8 points. Giorgio Armani (No. 11) and Stuart Weitzman (No. 15) also made the Top 15 list, with 64.6 and 59.4 points, respectively.

With his signature shoes selling out in a half hour, Dwayne Johnson and his tie-up with Under Armour ranked as the best celebrity endorsement, earning a perfect 100-point score. Model Winnie Harlow and her 97.2 points took the No. 2 spot for her work with Tommy Hilfiger. Hugo Boss mouthpiece Chris Hemsworth grabbed the No. 7 spots with 93.1 points.

Brands can do better when choosing celebrity partners, especially with so much money on the line.

“Looking at the best and worst deals, it’s evident that whether it’s for a larger sponsorship or a seasonal campaign, the process of selecting celebrities to represent brands is complex and multi-faceted,” Spotted said in the report. “In order to improve and fully unlock the potential of celebrity marketing strategies, brands must look closely and better consider each of those facets.”