Are brand influencers the real deal?

Some footballers have become household names. PHOTO/ COURTESY

What you need to know:

Seen as opinion leaders or influential members of their community, brand ambassadors can have a significant impact on sales figures through their popularity and influence.

Brand influencers are associated with the brand scale from sportsmen, media personalities, actors and actresses who have partnered with several brands. This is mostly attached to continual growth on social media due to their engagements online which means that their influence grows over time.  

So who is an influencer and what is their worth?
A brand ambassador is someone hired by a brand to portray them in a positive light, increase brand awareness, and work towards achieving company goals.

Seen as opinion leaders or influential members of their community, brand ambassadors can have a significant impact on sales figures through their popularity and influence.

For instance, the name Oprah Winfrey or Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is a household name, and to many, he is considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

He is allegedly deemed the ‘king of social media’ with his ability to attract the most followers of any athlete or Hollywood star and boasts of an impressive portfolio of endorsement deals.
This is in addition to a lifetime deal with Nike, in the company of the likes of Michael Jordan and LeBron James. He has had various partnerships over the years with brands  like Tag Heuer, Herbalife, and Clear, Gillette, drinks and tech Wellness Company among others.

To show how crucial the product and brand is, on August 10, 2022, in New York - Reuters published a story indicating that Oprah Winfrey’s company had filed a lawsuit against the creators of the “Oprahdemics” podcast, claiming that the program misled listeners into thinking she sponsored or approved it.

The case is Harpo Inc v Jackson et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 22-06787.
In a complaint filed in Manhattan federal Court, Winfrey’s Harpo Inc said it is neither seeking profits or damages from “Oprahdemics” creators Kellie Carter Jackson and Leah Wright Rigueur, nor trying to stop the podcast.

“Instead, it wants a name change, saying the podcast and related live events dilute Harpo’s ‘Oprah’  and “O” trademarks, and wrongly capitalise on the goodwill that Winfrey has spent decades building,” it reads.

Harpo, which is Oprah spelled backward, said simply being associated with the “Oprah” brand often causes an “exponential” jump in sales, known as “The Oprah Effect” or “The O Factor.”
Closer to home,  Ms Faridah Nakazibwe, a media personality, says it all started with the Méstil Hotel during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Because their target market had been locked out, they had to  change strategy and seriously consider the local market. I was chosen to champion that. It was my first project and I was not experienced in that but I enjoyed every bit of the journey especially since it is a very classy facility, I didn’t have to beat my head hard to attract content,” Nakazibwe recounts.

She adds: “I can proudly say I delivered well and the objective was achieved. It paved way for so many other projects after that.”
Today, this trend has changed the advertising game completely.

Ms Nakazibwe notes that it looks unstoppable since it humanises branding and establishes a relationship with customers on a level that other strategies cannot.

“It is giving people jobs and whoever hasn’t woken up to take up some space should start thinking about it. Brands want visibility and numbers offer exactly that,” she explains.

She adds that some numbers may not take you there because however much they love numbers, reputation is crucial; unless extremely controversial, brands are cautious on who represents them.
But having numbers without influence may not help much. So, people should be mindful of what they put out and how they engage with those numbers.

What it takes
This she says is serious business if one wins the trust of the people.

“Advertising is about convincing people. If you position yourself worth the trust, demand to endorse brands will be high. That involves you being particular with what to endorse, for example, I don’t take on every business that comes. I look at the authenticity of the company and quality of the product plus a few other things,” she notes.

When it comes to product and brand models, there needs to be a keen eye.
Nakazibwe says winners are those who have positioned themselves strategically, and have built their brands and didn’t take their numbers for granted.

Ron Kawamara, the chief executive officer at Jumia Uganda, says a brand ambassador is someone you want to speak to your brand. This means they have an audience they want to reach.
Using your credibility helps you build your own credibility and brand product. A brand model is only hired for that particular purpose.

“The era of relying on celebs is diminishing. In the past, reaching a celebrity was difficult. Today, people are paid to be product and brand models,” he says.

He adds: “Product and brand models are not very expensive yet because IP is not well paid for. Brand models ought to know their value because this is quantified. For instance, your followers’ impact and brand equity must be strong.”

As a product and brand model, you have to deliver a trackable impact and what you have created. This will make you more visible to any product looking for a brand model.
He urges brand models to know their worth and cost it. If you don’t have the worth, the company decides for you which might not be good.

He, however, notes that not all product and brand models know or have their rights.
“Sometimes product and brand models do not have rights. It is only credible companies that have rights and these are not very expensive,” Kawamara says.

Rights of brand models
The head of legal at The Innovation Village, Ms Hellen Mukasa, emphasises the need for contracts.

“I would urge all brand models to ensure that they have a contract. It should not be by word-of-mouth or promise of pay. The person who negotiates that contract should ensure your protection, scope of work, for how long your images can be used, what are your rights in relation to reproducing any videos you make,” Ms Mukasa explains.

When you choose to do this kind of work, also known as work for hire, the company paying you to do the modeling owns all intellectual rights of property in relation to the contract you are making.

This implies that the contract negotiated is between you and the company.
She says: “You are a service provider and the Intellectual Property (IP) related to what you are doing is addressed in such a contract. Depending on the negotiation, it is either joint ownership of the IP or work of hire.”

Asked if there is anything like abusing their rights or limits, Ms Mukasa says: “When the contract is put into writing or made known what our respective boundaries are; then it is obvious that if you can cross that boundary, you are abusing my right.”