- Celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Scarlett Johansson have joined the management of startups.
- Many are looking for deals that combine a spokesperson role and an executive title.
- The arrangements give young brands a famous face, although they come with risks.
- See more stories on the Insider business page.
As collagen brand Vital Proteins gets new products on store shelves this year, the company has an unlikely executive to thank for making them possible: actress Jennifer Aniston.
Aniston is Creative Director at Vital Proteins, a position that combines elements of social media influence with the responsibilities most inherent in product development.
Kurt Seidensticker, founder and CEO of Vital Proteins, said he and Aniston got to know each other after she became a regular user of the company’s collagen products, such as creamer and water. As Creative Director, she helped create Vital’s new collagen gums. âWe kicked off an early innovation on her part, and she provided feedback on where she thinks the products should go,â Seidensticker told Insider in an interview.
Celebrities have signed on to be the face of brands for decades. But many are now signing deals that give them executive titles for the brands they work with. At the same time, it is not enough to appear in advertisements for products: many celebrities who take this route advise on products in development and have a say in the company’s strategy – which is what the spokespersons can not do.
Besides Aniston, other notable celebrity executives include actress Scarlett Johansson, who became Creative Director and investor in a healthy food brand owned by HumanCo in April, as well as Chef Martha Stewart, who joined the board of the upscale BurgerFi chain earlier this year.
âInstead of a brand going out and saying ‘Will you be the face of my campaign? âThey’re looking for something that’s more of an authentic connection,â said Stacy Jones, CEO and founder of Hollywood Branded, an agency that manages celebrity-brand deals.
“They are more and more common, and this is something that has been happening for the last five or six years,” she added.
At Vital Proteins, Aniston’s star power is part of the strategy. Seidensticker said he and Aniston had been talking about some sort of partnership for years, but it really took shape after the actress opened an Instagram account and started posting about her personal wellness routine and how which it uses collagen.
From this point of view, the brand’s work with Aniston makes her look like an influencer. âLet’s get Jen to explain and educate people about the benefits of collagen, but also dig deep into her own routine,â Seidensticker said, explaining the approach. “I think his discovery and well-being are applicable to everyone.”
But it is also part of the development of the product. Seidensticker said Aniston was involved in selecting new flavors for new products, and the company was considering a Jen-themed snack bar based on more of her contributions. âIt’s pretty interactive,â Seidensticker said of Vital Proteins’ relationship with Aniston.
Asked whether Aniston’s deal with Vital Proteins includes an investment in the brand, Seidensticker declined to provide details, citing confidentiality, but said: “Our collaboration goes beyond a simple approval.”
Other recent deals give celebrities a similar voice in products. As part of the HumanCo deal, Johansson contributes âhis ideas and ideas to product developmentâ for the company’s pocket pizza brand Snow Days. And at BurgerFi, Stewart chairs the board’s products and innovation committee. The companies did not provide details of their deals with Johansson or Stewart, although HumanCo confirmed that Johansson had made an investment.
While celebrities taking on more involved roles in brands are not new, their focus on promising companies is a more recent development, Jones told Insider. Many are interested in entering the ground floor of a start-up, both with participation and with a few words about how the brand is growing. Among other recent examples, actress Dakota Johnson becomes co-creative director of sexual wellness brand Maude and Kerry Washington invests and plays a role in the jewelry brand aimed directly at consumers Aurate.
âThere is a lot more to them in carving out percentages and providing these celebrities with the opportunity to be a stakeholder, because they really have the ability to make a real impact and drive sales of. the brand, âJones said.
But the startup world can be chaotic, and celebrities are likely to ask for royalty payments or other compensation in case the startup goes bankrupt, she said. âThey don’t know if they’re going to lend their face to something that’s going to be a colossal failure,â Jones said, adding that celebrities are taking one of these hybrid influencer-executive roles âas an investment decision. “.
Brands must also do due diligence before welcoming celebrities to their C-suite, she said. In traditional endorsement deals, celebrities have a habit of sticking to a contract closely, such as making a number of public appearances on behalf of the company.
This approach may not work for businesses when the celebrity in question is committed to product development, inside marketing strategies, or other open-ended projects. “What they have to look at is: is she a celebrity who is really going to take it to the next level and become a true partner?” Jones said.