Whip out those Armani sunglasses because Dubai has suddenly turned on the bling with a record number of celebrities walking among us. If they aren't opening restaurants or buying million-dollar homes, the stars are lending their names to ultra-luxe real estate projects.
An estimated Dh50 billion has already been invested in creating Dubai's celebrity city, with Nakheel leading the starry race. Big names who have already signed on with the developer include Virgin's Sir Richard Branson, singer Rod Stewart, actor Shah Rukh Khan and real-estate magnate Donald Trump; while a waiting list reportedly features actor Tom Cruise and former US President Bill Clinton.
Another company making waves is ACI Real Estate. Its Trilogy Project has been backed by F1 Grand Prix heroes Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher, and tennis ace Boris Becker. "We are not merely working with celebrities, but icons. These icons reflect an uncommon commitment to excellence that takes them to the top of the game and keeps them there," said an ACI spokesperson.
But the phenomenon is not limited to Dubai. Ajman is also seeing an aggressive celebrity marketing strategy: Arab superstar Omar Sharif has endorsed the Dh220-million Al Zorah coastal development, while Dirty Dancing star Patrick Swayze has invested in PKN Group's $4.3bn Las Vegas-style PKN Princess Resort, set to break ground this year.
In recent years, Dubai's growing international status has seen master chefs Gordon Ramsay and Sanjeev Kapoor pioneer the celeb movement with restaurants in Dubai, and in 2002, golfer Colin Montgomerie finished designing The Montgomerie Golf Club in Dubai. Recently, the city's glitzy lifestyle has been boosted by Roger Federer moving into an apartment in Dubai Marina. Fellow tennis pro Maria Sharapova has endorsed the Dh2.4bn Dubai Lifestyle City, and actress Deepika Padukone Aspire Real Estate.
Aspire CEO Amitabh Dhawan says celebrity endorsements cut across the cluttered real estate market today and lends credibility to projects: "The days are gone when a project was launched in the morning and sold out by afternoon. With so many daily launches, celebrities give a company that extra edge."
While most real estate companies see this trend growing even further, Musadiq Shah, chairman of Pride Group Holdings which owns a UAE-based real estate company, says the strategy will only work up to a point. "Celebrities as brand ambassadors is a great initial strategy but the onus then falls on the developers to live up to the hype. These companies must look beyond the names and deliver projects on time. Only then can the city gain international credibility in its true sense."
The waiting game has begun for many of these projects to break ground, but the A-list continue to pour in at a rapid pace. Emirates Business goes beyond the hype and looks at your new friendly neighbourhood celebrity.