It’s not uncommon to open up the pages of OK! magazine or a national newspaper and see some well-staged beach photos designed to prop up a celebrity’s profile. It could be that in return they got a few free nights at the hotel referenced in the copy, but does the hotel or the destination really benefit?
For the likes of Cate Blanchett, Tom Cruise or Morgan Freeman, to grace the red carpet at the Dubai Film Festival, as they have done, gives huge credibility to that event; for artists such as Lady Gaga, will.i.am or One Direction to have included Dubai on their tour list gives credibility to Dubai as a live music hub; and for Gary Rhodes, Jason Atherton, Tom Aikens and Gordon Ramsay to speak out about their Dubai restaurants gives strength to our growing reputation as a foodie destination.
But footballers? Reality TV stars? Soap stars? What credibility do they bring? Dubai was recently invited to pay handsomely to be the “official destination partner for Wayne Rooney”. A good investment, or can celebrity endorsement do more harm than good? So many times I have heard how Dubai is only “a playground for WAGs, the rich and famous”, which is far from the truth.
Celebrity endorsement works well when it is attached to an activity for which that celebrity is best known.
If it’s only about photos of beach-ready bodies and blinding white smiles, I am less convinced. From a marketing perspective, real people and peer-to-peer communication still carry much greater relevance.
Ian Scott F Inst TT is director of Dubai Tourism and an ITT board member