The rise of young social media masters like Kendall Jenner—24 million-plus followers on Instagram, catching up to the likes of Justin Bieber—point to sea change in celebrity power.
There’s no clearer proof than the case of Estée Lauder and Jenner, whom the cosmetics company signed last fall in a bid to reach a younger audience . In the 24 hours after the Kardashian sibling announced her brand ambassadorship in an Instagram post, @esteelauder’s Instagram following grew by 18 percent. Even more notable: When Estée Lauder and Jenner coordinated to post a video in January, Jenner’s Instagram post had 56 times the interactions of the identical post on Estée Lauder’s page. The 444,000 likes on Jenner’s post outnumbered the entirety of @esteelauder’s following.
Dolce & Gabbana enjoyed a similar amplification effect – a spike in new Instagram followers – when Jenner walked in their New York Fashion Week runway show last September. Meanwhile, Jenner recently collected 1.1 million likes over two days after posting a shot of herself on a giant Calvin Klein billboard in Soho; compare that with Calvin Klein’s total Instagram fans, 1.3 million.
In addition to Jenner, a crop of models have cultivated broad fan bases on Instagram—opening up a behind-the-scenes and aspirational view of their lives—and brands are using that to their favor. Burberry is benefiting from Cara Delevingne’s 11 million-strong Instagram fan base (plus 2.5 million followers on Twitter). Nineteen-year-old Gigi Hadid, who’s been signed by brands including Maybelline and Victoria’s Secret Pink, counts 2.9 million fans on Instagram. Hailey Baldwin, recently signed by Topshop Denim, has an Instagram audience of 1.3 million.
For brands, opportunities beyond Instagram’s top tier are plenty. For example, Lacoste collaborated with tastemaker Patrick Janelle – named Fashion Instagrammer of the Year last June by the Council of Fashion Designers of America – for access to his 368,000 followers on Instagram and the perks of his digital influence. Janelle actively promoted the opening of a GQ x Lacoste Sport Pop-up Shop in New York City on the social platform, and is also featured in the Playground Mag section of Lacoste’s site.
The sportswear category enjoys the same amplification effect as fashion. Last year Nike ambassador Cristiano Ronaldo wrangled 2.8K retweets and 3.3K favorites for a tweet promoting a YouTube video compared to just 108 retweets and 127 likes for @Nikefootball when it tweeted about the video a few days earlier.
The sportswear category has been investing heavily in brand ambassadorship beyond the sports world and getting results in return. Two of Adidas’ non-athlete ambassadors, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, represent 36x and 16x the reach of the primary channel for adidas on Twitter. New Balance ambassador Heidi Klum achieves 26x brand amplification.
The rabid communities of social media mavens is rocket fuel even for brands with robust followings, which flips the balance of power from the brand to the ambassador.
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