Red Nose Day – the Power of Partnerships

Ellen and her daughter on Red Nose Day

Red Nose Day is round the corner and once again, the success of the fundraiser is relying heavily on its celebrity partnerships. Here, Editorial Director Ellen Widdup, explores why these sorts of relationships resonate for brands.


Red Nose Day was the brainchild of comedy scriptwriter Richard Curtis and comedian Lenny Henry in response to the famine in Ethiopia and ever since its inception it has been backed by a host of household names.

This year they include James McAvoy, Olivia Coleman, Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan and a collaboration with TK Maxx which is selling t-shirts ahead of an evening of television to be broadcast live on BBC One on March 19.

This year’s event – which marks the 35th anniversary – has the tagline 'Funny is power'. But actually, the power of this “funny for money” campaign has always been its ability to attract the weight of famous faces.

Powerful partnerships

Securing the right celebrity endorsement is like winning a golden ticket for most brands.

Michael Jordan for Nike. George Clooney for Nespresso. Oprah Winfrey for Weight Watchers. Britney for Pepsi and Bieber for Calvin Klein. The list goes on.

But this type of marketing strategy is not new. In fact, it goes back as far as the concept of celebrities.

In the early 1900s, Mark Twain co-branded pens and Ty Cobb had his own tobacco. In the 1950s, Doris Day backed Harvester road rolling equipment and the chocolate company Whitman’s recruited Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Taylor and John Wayne to appear in its ads.

The 1990s and 2000s ushered in the era of mutually beneficial joint marketing deals, product creation and co-ownership, with celebrities at the forefront of branding decisions.

And following the explosion of social media, we are now seeing a different type of celebrity – the influencer - acting as a thought leader.

What it’s not

Undoubtedly, famous faces have the ability to drive more awareness and exposure for a brand or product - and they can add a relevance for a specific target market.

But it’s important to be aware that this is not advertising. When it comes to a public relations campaign, celebrities are used differently.

Most effectively, they serve as spokespeople. They can also be used to share a brand narrative and earn the trust of consumers.

Sincerity is key. After all, there’s nothing worse than watching celebrities endorse products you know they never use.

If your brand wants a celebrity ambassador, look for automatic linkage first. Are you already aware of someone in the public eye that uses your product? Is there someone out there who would be the obvious fit?

Here we can draw inspiration from Holly Willoughby and Davina McCall and their use of Garnier Nutrisse throughout the pandemic. Sales have soared as a result of their DIY videos while hairdressers stay closed.

Collaboration is key

Another way to maximise impact for your brand is to consider going beyond simple endorsements and look at collaborating on new product lines.

Kanye West collaborated with Adidas for the Yeezy brand. Rhianna oversees the entire women’s line for PUMA. While Elizabeth Arden partnered with Britney Spears to create the Britney fragrance line.

Celebrities aside, you can also explore the benefits of brand partnerships.

Our client Cosy Aromas is currently looking at teaming up with a national charity to produce a bespoke candle and with an internationally-known ice cream brand for a range of wax melts based on their most popular flavours.

The coming together of two brands with the ultimate aim of reaching a new audience can dramatically improve their service and create a new PR angle.

David and Goliath

Don’t limit your potential by thinking too small.

Partnering is a good way to grow and small businesses can do this by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Everyone loves a story of David partnering with Goliath, and the media will do too.

Going full circle, this refers to celebrity backing too.

Of course, securing a celebrity partnership can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be.

The key is to work out who your brand resonates with and why - this will help you find a way in.

Some celebrities offer their services free of charge if the brand fit is right. Others will slash costs if the brand meets one of their personal goals. Some will just “throw a bone” to a micro business if they think it particularly deserving.

Consider Michael Phelps’ partnership with TalkSpace, an online therapy platform. It’s not a massive brand but the Olympic athlete, who has been very open about his own struggles with depression and anxiety, felt it was a good fit.

More locally, when Oscar nominee Mat Kirkby praised the Pump Street bakery in Orford during his acceptance speech in Hollywood in 2015, they received a lot of attention locally, nationally and even internationally, with celebrities keen to visit the Suffolk seaside town for a famous jam donut.

The bottom line

Getting a big name to back your business is bound to be beneficial. But the key to success is usually getting the right face to front your brand.

We can help you explore the options within your budget. Give us a call today.

Share this article:share on twitter share on facebook