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21 April 2024

Global brands seek local stars

By Rachel McArthur


The rise of celebrity spokespersons has continued in recent years, with the crème de la crème of global superstars promoting everything from designer handbags and cosmetics to sports shoes and fast food. After all, it is a quick and cost-effective way to raise a brand’s profile and, therefore, is guaranteed to increase sales.


However, of late, not only do we see the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera on our television screens or magazines advertising one fancy product or other, but also some of the world’s biggest companies are now opting for local celebrities to represent them in the Arab world.


The latest celebrity to jump on the endorsement bandwagon is Tamer Hosni, who was appointed as Coca-Cola’s new Middle East brand ambassador this week.


The Egyptian superstar, who performed in Dubai for the first time two weeks ago, will front the soft drink giant’s advertising and print campaigns after signing a two-year contract. He joins Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram, who has been promoting the brand for the past four years.


Rafik El Toukhi, President, Middle East Business Unit, Coca-Cola Middle East, told Emirates Business: “Based on our extensive market research on popularity, personality and suitability for the Coke Side of Life [Coca-Cola’s slogan], our choice was naturally Tamer Hosni. In his extensive emotional range of music, his love for life and his dedication to spreading the message through music, we found him to be an ideal role model and he’s the most popular superstar in Egypt. We are confident we will be able to widen our appeal in the region with Tamer.”


It is estimated more than 1.3 billion times a day people pick up one of the manufacturer’s beverages. Therefore, to increase sales, it makes sense to use an Arabic celebrity in the region. At the end of the day, if a brand is looking to establish credibility and emotional connections with Middle Eastern consumers, nobody fits the bill quite like Hosni, Ajram or other big showbiz names.


Look at Ajram with her Damas jewellery collection or Elissa’s L’Azurde range. According to consumer reports, sales are estimated to have at least doubled since both female stars began representing the collections.


“It’s about connecting with our target audience,” said Amer Ahmed, public affairs and communication manger, Coca-Cola Middle East. “We could go down the easy route and just import Western commercials, but then not everyone would be able to relate to them. In comparison, everybody knows Nancy and Tamer, so they will associate the brand with what the celebrity stands for. That emotional connection is very important.


“We went out and researched who are the most popular celebrities in the region, and found out these singers are two of the very best. Additionally, both of them are young, dynamic and cheerful, which match our message of the brand – happiness. Again, both Ajram and Hosni are good role models for the fans who look up to them.”


Another advantage of signing on an Arab celebrity to front an advertising campaign is the fact they would be available in the region most of the time. This means there would be more opportunities to shoot commercials in the region, advertise at more of their concerts, and involve the celebrity with additional ventures.


For example, Coca-Cola Middle East fronts various charity projects in the region – projects that their ambassadors can represent.


Ahmed said: “We have a great social responsibility in the region. Many people enjoy our products, so it is our duty to give back to the community. In Jordan, there’s a project called Schools.com, where we build laboratories and supply computers for schools. We also have hospital libraries project in Lebanon – we build libraries in hospitals where children can spend their time.”


“Meanwhile, in Palestine we deliver school supplies to children. There are many more projects in countries such as the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia,” he said.


In fact, this is something that attracted Hosni to the deal. He said: “I am in the middle of planning 27 charity concerts in Egypt where all the proceeds will be used to purchase hospital equipment and pay medical bills of people in need.”


“Getting together with Coca-Cola is fantastic, because it will help me organise these charity drives. Plus, I am also impressed with the other charity work the firm has carried out in the region, and I would love to get involved with it,” said Hosni.


Apart from community work, there’s no doubt these celebrity-brand partnerships benefit the singer/actor/sports star involved. Of course, there is a lot of money involved to begin with, but fat pay cheque aside it also does wonders for their career in the long run.


When Amr Diab joined Britney Spears, Pink and Beyonce for a Pepsi commercial, it was reported many Westerners took interest in the Egyptian superstar, and downloaded  his songs and purchased his CDs.


The same can be said for Lebanese beauty Haifa Wehbe, who joined Thierry Henry for a Pepsi World Cup Campaign. It resulted in her receiving an invite to the Cannes Film Festival in France, where she rubbed shoulders with Hollywood’s elite. And, we can guess, must have made business connections.


According to Ahmed, Coca-Cola also helped its “baby” Ajram gain more worldwide recognition. “You see the billboards in Dubai and everyone – from Arabs to non-Arabs – know who she is. Even in the cinema, when her commercial plays, people are familiar with her and they enjoy her songs.”


Therefore, Middle Eastern celebrity branding is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. In fact, as the region continues to invest in more of its own entertainment, with countries such as the UAE, Syria and Lebanon creating an increasing number of television shows and movies, more stars are also expected to receive endorsement offers.


One movie to look out for in the near future is Pepsi’s Bahr El Nujoom (Sea of Stars),  which is scheduled for release at the end of this year, and features singers Haifa Wehbe, Ahmed El Sherif, Carole Samaha and Wael Kafouri. With rumours that the film is to be sold to distributors outside the region, we can hope to see more famous faces receiving  endorsement opportunities.



Top Arab spokespeople





ESTIMATED WORTH: $31.5million

The Lebanese star is dubbed the ‘Queen of endorsements’. She promotes five brands: Pepsi, Vogue sunglasses, L’Azurde, Lux, George Stahl





WORTH: $37million

The Egyptian superstar reportedly earns $20m directly from record sales. And the rest from tours and endorsements, most notably Pepsi





WORTH: $16.2million

The Lebanese singer, who has sold more than 30m albums in the region, has successful campaigns such as Coca-Cola and Damas Jewellery





ESTIMATED WORTH: $8.2million

The Lebanese singer, actress and model currently promotes Pepsi. She also promotes various other products through  her music videos




WORTH: $11.5million

Lebanese singer Zoughbi, who is known as the ‘Madonna of the Arab world’ is currently the Middle East ambassador for LG Electronics Middle East