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How celebrity and influencer partnerships can help your PR with Celebrity Focus CEO Ric Bachrach

By On Top of PR

On Top of PR podcast: Celebrity Focus with guest Ric Bachrach and show host Jason Mudd episode graphic

In this episode, Ric Bachrach from Celebrity Focus joins host Jason Mudd to discuss celebrity partnerships and the NIL license that passed recently. Tune in to learn more about misperceptions about working with celebrities, the difference between celebrities and influencers, how the partnership process works, how to set boundaries in these contracts, and how Jason and Ric feel about the passing of the NIL license for young athletes.



Watch the episode here


5 things you’ll learn during the full episode:

  1. Common misperceptions about working with celebrity talent
  2. The difference between celebrities and influencers
  3. How to protect yourself when approaching a celebrity that isn’t well known yet for partnership
  4. If you should give up equity or stock in a partnership with a celebrity
  5. What name, image, likeness is


Disclosure: One or more of the links we share here might be affiliate links that offer us a referral reward when you buy from them.


[01:05] Ric Bachrach’s background

  • Ric represent buyers of celebrity talent.
  • He’s built over 4,400 relationships between celebrities and brands.

[02:11] Common misperceptions

  • Relevance drives everything. Why does that relationship make sense? 
  • You shouldn’t pick influencers solely on how popular they are.
  • There’s talent available at every budget.

[03:43] The difference between celebrities and influencers

  • Influencers are in a different category from celebrities.
  • Influencers are famous primarily through a digital footprint (Social media, blogging, etc.).

Ric: “It's not that celebrities aren't influencers, of course they are, but the reality is as the word influencer is most commonly used today, that's in relation to people who have become famous or achieved some relative level of fame, primarily through a digital footprint platforms that they're working on, either as bloggers, or as YouTubers, or [other] things.”


[05:04] Partnerships with celebrities and influencers

  • PR and marketing
  • Hospitality
  • Employee engagement programs
  • The celebrity or influencer is the vehicle for disseminating corporate messages.

Ric: “You see applications that are business-to-business driven, others that are business-to-consumer. So there's no shortage of the ways that companies use celebrities nor in the different applications in the various disciplines, advertising, marketing, PR, sales, promotion.”


[07:48] How to establish boundaries between companies and celebrities

  • Understand this is a business exchange.
  • Each party should always fulfill their side of the contract.
  • Educate your clients of the origin of the relationship – “You’re not there to get a new best friend.”

[10:23] How to protect yourself when approaching a celebrity that isn’t well known

  • Build flexibility into the relationship so both parties are prepared for what may come.

[12:10] Should small or unknown companies partner with celebrities?

  • First, any celebrity will ask: “Are they a good company? Are they profitable? How big are they?”
  • Celebrity partnership isn’t designed for small businesses.
  • Celebrity acquisition should represent around 15-20% of the budgeted it’s associated with.

[16:42] Should you give up equity or stock as part of a celebrity partnership?

  • This is happening more often now.
  • This is recommended because it usually means the celebrity will be more involved, and they may lead creative direction for the development of advertising and marketing campaigns.

[17:49] Name, image, likeness

  • Name, Image, Likeness licenses allow amateur athletes to sell their endorsement rights so a brand or organization can compensate them for using their name, image, and likeness.
  • The NCAA passed this earlier this year.


About Ric Bachrach

Ric is the CEO and president of Celebrity Focus. His company’s main goal is to connect famous people with famous brands. He was inspired to start the company after realizing the needs of talent and realizing he could put that to work for corporate clients. He understood this need from his background as an athlete and collegiate coach, which led him to a career as an agent, commercial agent, and vice president at a major sports agency and a consultant at the other.


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- Hello, and welcome to "On Top of PR." I'm your host, Jason Mudd with Axia Public Relations. Today, I'm joined by Ric Bachrach. He is going to talk to us today about connecting famous people and famous brands. Ric, welcome to the show.


- Jason, thank you very much. Glad to be here.


- Well, I'm glad to be here, too. We've been working on putting this together for a while and really glad you're here. I think today we want to talk about, of course, connecting famous people and famous brands. We also want to talk a little bit about what's going on with college football, or excuse me, college sports, and name and likeness, and other topics that brands should be considering when they are thinking about hiring or engaging an influencer spokesperson, that kind of thing. Does that sound good, Ric?


- Sure. Let's go.


- All right, well first let me just have you do, like a one-, two-sentence, kind of introduction to yourself for the audience, so they know your background and experience.


- Sure, well, the long and the short of it is that I broker celebrity talent. I represent the buyers of celebrity talent. My clients, principally, are big brands, and the agencies that represent the brands. And for those brands that are hiring people to endorse their product or work on their behalf as a spokesperson, the practical reality is most of these brands do this occasionally; I do it all day every day, and I've been doing this for almost 40 years. I have put together a little bit north of 4,400 relationships between celebrities and brands, so there's not much I haven't seen.


- Ric, there's no doubt, you're a veteran in the business, you've seen a lot of things, you've done a lot of things. That's why we asked you to be a guest on "On Top of PR," so you can help our audience stay on "on top of PR." A lot of our audience may or may not be actively participating in these types of activities – some of them may be doing it for the very first time. So maybe we could just kind of talk through what are some common mistakes or misperceptions that people might have about this line of work?


- So I think first of all, Jason, it's a great question. There are some key components that buyers need to think about celebrity talent buyers, and the first is to understand process-wise that relevance drives everything. Anytime you engage a celebrity to endorse your product or work for your brand, the No. 1 thing you've got to think about is why does that relationship make sense? Where's the relevance? You want to make sure that you find the fit between that celebrity and the brand. And part of what you're doing is you are looking at the attributes that the celebrity brings to the table, not just how popular they are but what genre they may work in, and how their fame can connect to your product or service. It's got to be a logical and good fit. The next thing is budget. It's very easy to have champagne taste and a beer wallet, but the beautiful thing is that ... If we understand that there's talent available for every budget, as long as you're flexible you're always going to have a good relationship.


- And so, Ric, does your work include ... I mean, obviously, I know you work with entertainers and celebrities. Do you also work with … just influencers and content creators, or are you more focused on different celebrities?


- Yeah, so my focus really is on the celebrity world, and it's not that I don't work with influencers from time to time, but that the influencer category really is separate. It's distinctly separate from the celebrity category. And it's not that celebrities aren't influencers, of course they are, but the reality is, I think, as the word influencer is most commonly used today, that's in relation to people who have become famous or achieved some relative level of fame, primarily through a digital footprint platforms that they're working on, either as bloggers, or as YouTubers, or things like that. So the channels are different, they're not exactly the same, but yeah, my specialty for sure is what I'll call mainstream, the world of mainstream celebrity.


- Perfect. Thank you. Yeah, that's very helpful for our audience to kind of understand a little bit of your perspective and experience. Can you talk about, kind of, when these types of partnerships go really well, Ric? What are some of the attributes that companies benefit from, and some of the synergies that are created?


- So, first of all, let's consider that we've got a variety of communications and marketing disciplines. And of course, we've got the standard realms, advertising, regardless of whether that's a television or print or radio, but you've got advertising and public relations are the two primary categories of use. Of course, there's an endless variety of ways that companies engage with famous people – they work with them in hospitality, they work with them in employee engagement programs. You see applications that are business-to-business driven, others that are business-to-consumer. So there's no shortage of the ways that companies use celebrities nor in the different applications in the various disciplines, advertising, marketing, PR, sales, promotion. You know, the key components are, I think, always the understanding of what the celebrity brings to the table, and more particularly, what's the role of a celebrity in relation to a brand. And in every single case, it's the same thing: The celebrity serves as the vehicle for the dissemination of corporate messages. It doesn't matter whether those messages are delivered through an ad campaign, or in their role as a PR spokesperson, or at a client hospitality event, or what have you, or headlining a promotion. In every single case, that celebrity is there to deliver key messages for the company and the brand.


- Yeah, I absolutely agree. You're absolutely right with that. Speaking of one thing I see happen a lot is a company wants to engage someone. And then there's kind of what we would call in the business, scope creep, where they're like, “Oh, you know what, we're also having this extra event, or could they also sign 200 autographs, or there's just these added things that start happening when we've done this type of work with someone like you to help us with our client.” And then next thing you know, the celebrity’s in town, and they're like, “Gosh, while they're here, I'd love to have them come to my son's birthday party,” or whatever it might be. So how do you address those things up front, Ric? So you kind of are able to kind of identify what are these “what ifs” scenarios that may or may not come up, and how do we kind of preempt them both, you know, or account for them in some way?


- So it's, again, Jason, that's a wonderful point that you bring up. One of the things that I always counsel my clients on right out of the gate is the understanding that they are not buying a new best friend.


- [Jason] Right.


- This is an exchange of goods or money for services.


- [Jason] Right.


- And what they have a right to expect and demand is delivery of exactly what we've contracted for in exchange for compensation. And the same holds true for the talent, for the celebrity. The celebrity has a right to expect that they'll be compensated exactly to the terms of the agreement, and that they will be expected to deliver exactly to the specifications of the contract. So there's no technical scope creep, we all see it, but it comes up more often than not … frankly, with inexperienced buyers.


- [Jason] Mm-hmm.


- And that's an issue of educating our clients at the origin of the relationship.


- [Jason] Yeah.


- Actually prior to negotiating contract points, making sure that they understand, again, they're not there to buy a new best friend. We want everybody to get along great, we want these to be good and lasting relationships, let them have some legs to them, but the reality is everybody needs to do exactly what is called for in the agreement. And then if they do, we'll get great results, and everybody will be happy with one another.


- Yeah, Ric, I was recently talking to a client who was telling me they were going after an up-and-coming professional golfer, and how they thought he doesn't currently have a sponsor. And so maybe this is an opportunity for them to kind of swoop in and get it. And we weren't involved at all, but my counsel to them was: “OK, what's the scenario when they're not good, or when they don't take off? When the potential isn't there, how do you kind of pivot out of that agreement in a way that works for you?” And at the same time, protect yourself for taking a chance on this person, right? If they start to have this trajectory, that's fantastic, to where suddenly, they're blown off or whatever it might be. How do you kind of lock them in to an element of convenience where it's like, “Hey, I'm taking a risk on you,” to where it doesn't get to a point where this person's so successful, they feel like they're being taken advantage of.


- Yeah, and I think that reality is key to that, Jason. If everybody enters the relationship understanding where things are at but also where they can go both pro and con. As you say, the golfer may fail, just as well as … he or she may become the next hot thing. So in the case where you can't, where you may not have a history to predict an outcome, you build in flexibilities into the relationship so that both parties are prepared for what may come.


- Right. Exactly. Yeah, well, Ric, with that, we're going to take a quick break and come back on the other side where we're talking more about connecting famous people and famous brands. And maybe sometimes connecting famous people with not-yet-famous brands that are hoping to become famous because of their connection with that celebrity. Otherwise, we'll be right back after these announcements.


- [Narrator] You're listening to "On Top of PR" with your host, Jason Mudd. Jason is a trusted adviser to some of America's most admired and fastest-growing brands. He is the managing partner at Axia Public Relations, a PR agency that guides news, social, and web strategies for national companies. And now, back to the show.


- Welcome back. Glad you're still with us. I'm Jason, joined by Ric. We're talking about connecting famous brands with famous people. Ric, what happens if we have an obscure or unknown brand that wants to get connected with a famous person? I'm guessing that's going to be a lot of their budget, a lot of money for them to do it. Is that a way for them, a good way for them to get started, or should they start with smaller opportunities?


- Yeah, well, complex question … At the root, Jason, I think you have to take a close look at that brand, although the brand may not be big or well known. The first question that any celebrity is going to ask is: “Are they a good company? Are they a profitable company? How big are they?” Celebrity use isn't designed for small business, unless it's a small business that's owned by the celebrity. Let say that these are emerging brands or challenger brands, they may be growing. And I'll refer back to a pharmaceutical company that I worked with probably 25 years ago, 23 years ago, that at the time was a relative unknown, and yet they were a brand doing a little over $100 million a year in sales. Now they aggressively pursued celebrity contracts in relation to a nonprofit relationship that they were supporting, and the celebrities were integrated into a public education and awareness campaign, which supported a nonprofit, and ultimately drove business back to the pharmaceutical company's primary brand. That engagement worked very, very well. They followed aggressively that pursuit for about the next 10 years. And if you fast forward today, not just the company, but the brand is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year brand, so it was a case where they were big enough to be able to support celebrity agreements. And I think it should be noted that celebrity acquisition typically should represent between 15% and 20% of the budget that it's associated with. So for example, if the budget, if the engagement is really, let's call it a PR initiative, if you're spending $20,000 to secure the talent, the celebrity, the campaign itself should have a budget of $100,000, there should be a 5-to-1 investment on the campaign itself versus the celebrity. That's not dissimilar, by the way, to a company that would acquire the rights to, let's say, the Olympic rings, somebody becomes an Olympic sponsor. If they spend $100 million on the acquisition of the Olympic rights to be an Olympic sponsor, they will be expected to spend $500 million or $600 million in support of that relationship. That's about the right balance. And again, there's talent available at every budget, but you want to be appropriate and thoughtful. Now, in the case of a brand, that's a relative unknown, part of what we'll have to do is educate the celebrity world and the agent world, the agents and managers, and let them know who this emerging brand is, why it's important, and why it's an important opportunity that they get in early before the whole world knows who they are.


- Mm-hmm, so this could work two ways, where maybe you're getting hitched to a celebrity that has a bright future, and you want to get connected with them early and be part of their rise, and so you've been with them for a while. Similarly, maybe celebrity or entertainer or athlete wants to associate themselves with a brand that they feel like might be on the rise. So if you're looking at an emerging brand, Ric, how often is some ownership, equity, stock, part of the deal, especially for an emerging, maybe technology or disruptive brand? And we're running out of time, so if you give us quick answer, how often do you see that? And does that often work well, or is that something that you generally don't recommend?


- No, I do recommend, and I think we're seeing more and more of it today. But we're also seeing the celebrities taking a more active role beyond just, “Hey, I'd like a piece of the company.” You look at people like Ryan Reynolds who took that approach first with Aviation Gin, and then later with Mint Mobile, and a few other brands. It wasn't just the case of “Give me a piece of the company,” he dived in feet-first and actually took on all of their creative direction for the development of their advertising and marketing campaigns. So we are seeing it more, and it can be a great way to enter the relationship.


- Right. Yeah. Well, it's unique also, I think when you've got a celebrity, like, Ryan Reynolds, … where they bring some unique talent and capabilities to the table, resources to the table as well. So, all right, so we promised we'd get into name, image, and likeness.


- Yep.


- In case our audience doesn't know, give us a kind of 10-second definition of what that means, and then we'll dive into a couple more questions before we wrap up.


- Sure, so NIL license, which is Name, Image, Likeness, first of all, was legislation passed by the NCAA this year, earlier this year, that essentially and effectively allows amateur athletes to sell their endorsement rights. So they can now be compensated by a brand or by an organization for the use of their name, their images, their likenesses. They can basically go out and advertise products and services and be compensated for it, without losing their amateur status.


- Yeah. Good. And that's a big step for amateur athletics, right?


- It's a huge step. So you're seeing tremendous volume at the NCAA-level colleges across the country. There are very, very few schools, even smaller schools that are not in some way finding deals for their student athletes. More surprising though, is actually the kids younger than that, because now you've got high schoolers, and I'm not saying there's a ton of them, but you have exceptional high school talent around this country. Baseball players in the state of Texas who are now finding these NIL deals. You've got a handful of kids making eight figures now.


- [Jason] Oh, my God.


- Endorsing products. It's pretty crazy; it's a little out of hand. NIL, though, also changes the landscape. It skews it even more in favor of bigger schools, colleges, and universities.


- [Jason] Right. Right.


- That have big broadcast contracts.


- [Jason] Right.


- Become ... Not that they weren't attractive landing spots before.


- [Jason] Yeah.


- But if you are, you talk about its value as a recruiting tool for high school athletes, it really tips the scales.


- Well, the rich keep getting richer, and hopefully this does not ruin, at least for me, college athletics, and more specifically my personal passion, college football … because I would hate to see that happen. And, you know, there's a saying, “Money ruins everything.” There's also a saying that marketers ruin everything, so this is kind of that one-two punch of both coming together in a Venn diagram.


- Yeah.


- Ric, any closing thoughts on NIL?


- No, I think NIL is here to stay – the challenge with it right now is that it's uncharted territory. We're less than a year into it, and everybody is learning their way through it. So you have compliance-related issues that the schools, I think the watchword for everybody is probably patience. So I think that if the student athletes cooperate with the institutions, and the institutions cooperate with the representatives and the families, it's largely undefined, they're kind of figuring it out as they go. So the more everybody can be patient, the better off they'll be.


- Mm-hmm, that's good. Well, that's always good. As a good expression is to be earnest, and be patient, and make wise decisions. And you can't make wise decisions quickly and you can't move too quick when you're making them. So Ric, if somebody is going through this, whether it's NIL or a celebrity-type deal or whatever, and they either want a second opinion or they need an expert like yourself. What's the best way for them to get ahold of you?


- Sure. Look me up on LinkedIn. My name is spelled on the screen. Look me up on LinkedIn. Email me at ric.bachrach@celebrityfocus.com. And I love having new conversations, and it never costs anything to pick up a phone and meet someone new; I would love to chat with folks about whatever their needs are.


- Appreciate that, Ric. And you and I have met through PRSA, and appreciate your sponsorship there and your engagement. And if you weren't doing that we probably wouldn't have met, and so I'm glad to have you here on the show. And "On Top of PR" also glad to talk to you a few times about a couple client matters and get your input on them as well. I definitely felt smarter and more informed and able to guide our clients a little better, and when they're ready, we'll talk again. So thank you for the opportunity today, Ric. With that, this has been another episode of "On Top of PR." Thank you for your support of our show. Every month we get more and more fans and followers, and we appreciate it, when we know it wouldn't be possible without folks like yourself. In addition, in speaking of, if you found value in this conversation today, do us a favor, reach out to Ric and let him know. But also share this episode with a friend or colleague who you think would benefit from it, and have some conversations around it with them or your team. And hopefully you will be able to use what you heard today and the insights we shared, so that you might have more success when you're engaging in sponsorships and celebrity endorsements and other things. So with that, this is Jason Mudd, signing off. Helping you stay "On Top of PR."


Sponsored by:

  • On Top of PR is produced by Axia Public Relations, named by Forbes as one of America’s Best PR Agencies. Axia is an expert PR firm for national brands.
  • On Top of PR is sponsored by ReviewMaxer, the platform for monitoring, improving, and promoting online customer reviews.


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About your host Jason Mudd

On Top of PR host, Jason Mudd, is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands and fastest-growing companies. Since 1994, he’s worked with American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort, and Verizon. He founded Axia Public Relations in July 2002. Forbes named Axia as one of America’s Best PR Agencies.


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