April 26, 2012
Friends in high places can help your company take off–but big endorsements cost big bucks. See how these companies found famous fans.
Rapper 50 Cent attends the Street King by 50 Cent Double Decker Bus Tour in Times Square.
When Shaun Neff launched Neff Headwear a decade ago, he knew his streetwear line could get a big boost if he could find some high-profile fans. But as a start-up, he lacked the cash needed to pay celebrities to endorse his products. So he reached out instead to users who’d have street (or ski slope) cred, giving away Neff beanies and headbands to amateur snowboarders.
The brand took off, eventually picking up genuine organic interest from celebrities like Lil Wayne. And as the company expanded beyond the “surf, skate, and snow” niche, Neff was able to start paying celebs to wear his wares. While he still gives away merchandise to up-and-coming influencers, he has also paid recognizable athletes to wear Neff gear and secured profit-sharing endorsement deals from the likes of hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg.
The payoff: a revenue increase of more than 300% during the past three years, Neff says.
For a start-up trying to make a splash, endorsement deals usually come at too high a price. Here are four other ways that companies that have scored high-profile endorsements in unconventional ways.