Eight tips for succeeding at influencer marketing.

Utah Business

Eight tips for succeeding at influencer marketing.

How to get your product in the hands of Taylor Swift (or at least try)

Thread Wallets co-founder McKenzie Bauer woke up with an idea. She wanted to get her product into the hands of Taylor Swift — arguably the most famous person in the world.

Rather than dismissing the idea as too wild, Bauer’s team got on board. They realized the easiest way to get to Swift was through Thread’s professional sports connections. They needed to reach Swift’s boyfriend, Travis Kelce, tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bauer found vintage Chiefs jackets on Etsy and hired a local seamstress to create custom bags for Swift and Brittany Mahomes, wife of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The seamstress created her own pattern for the bags, embroidered them and finished them within two days.

A few days later, Bauer and her team reached out to anyone who had a connection with the Chiefs. One of these connections said they could personally deliver the bags to the athletes’ lockers during practice just before the Chiefs left to play the Baltimore Ravens.

Bauer knew that even overnight shipping wasn’t a guarantee. So, the next day, she and Thread’s chief brand officer, Trevor Reese, booked same-day flights to Kansas City. When they arrived late that night, they drove straight to the connection’s house to hand-deliver the bags in custom boxes. The next morning, Bauer got a text saying the boxes had been delivered.

But after all the chaos and excitement of chasing a dream, the bags didn’t appear during the game. Bauer still doesn’t know if Kelce and Mahomes even got them.

Was it worth it?

“Absolutely,” Bauer says. “There are a lot of factors out of our control, but [getting product to a celebrity] always brings a letter of social validation and credibility to the product and brand. We can dream really big, and we can make it happen.”

Trying to reach a celebrity is always a risk, and the return on investment isn’t always easy to measure. Still, it can bring attention and brand legitimacy that’s hard to find elsewhere. The posts and videos documenting this moonshot got some of the highest engagement Thread has ever received.

Want to have your own star-studded moment? Here are some tips, strategies and success stories from business professionals on getting product into a celebrity’s hands.

Eight tips for succeeding at influencer marketing.
BMG Pre-GRAMMY Party. | Photo courtesy of Gigi Pip

1. Create a quality product or experience that people want to share.

In February, Thrifthood owner Albee Bostrom got a message from one of his customers: Post Malone was coming to his shop. A customer and friend of Malone’s had visited the Provo store and bought the artist some vintage Dallas Cowboys merchandise. She told Malone about the shop, and he decided to bring his whole family.

Malone spent two hours looking through every single rack, including the inventory in the back. Bostrom and Malone even played Guitar Hero together in the store for half an hour before Malone left.

Bostrom explains that you don’t have to make the best product in the world; you just have to create an experience that makes people feel included and taken care of.

“As long as you’re real and you create something people like, you’ll attract the right people,” Bostrom says. “[Our customer] liked our place enough and felt confident enough that if Malone did come, he would love it. And he did.”

Sometimes, a great product naturally finds its way into celebrities’ hands. For example, before the 2023 NBA All-Star Weekend, Shaquille O’Neal’s stylist contacted Gigi Pip’s brother brand, Two Roads Hat Co., to ask if the basketball legend could get some hats to wear during the weekend.

Two Roads made O’Neal custom hats, and he came into the store to pick them up. He loved them so much that he even mentioned the brand in an interview that weekend.

“If they love it, they’ll share it,” says Megan Bailey, director of product and marketing at Gigi Pip.

2. Make connections.

One of the best ways to reach big-name celebrities is to network and build quality relationships.

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. They might not reach back, but you’re not out anything,” Bauer says. “DM, email, engage in a really positive way, contribute to their social media in a beneficial way. Sometimes, I just show up at their events and network until I can say I have a good relationship.”

Bostrom explains that celebrities appreciate connecting with people who work hard. “Celebrities didn’t just walk into their stardom. They worked for it,” he says. “They want to be around people who can match that.”

3. Choose celebrities who align with your target audience.

Before you shoot for the stars, make sure you’re aiming for the right ones. Not every celebrity is going to be the right fit. Bauer recommends creating a vision board of the people you want to interact with your brand to get an idea of who you want to aim for.

When Thread did a giveaway for Taylor Swift Eras Tour tickets in 2023, customer engagement shot up, proving that Swift was not only one of the biggest celebrities in the world but one that resonated with Thread customers.

“We would never have put so much effort toward someone who didn’t align with our demographic,” Bauer says.

Eight tips for succeeding at influencer marketing.
Shaquille O'Neal wearing a Two Roads Hat Co. hat during an on-air interview. | Photo courtesy of Gigi Pip

4. Start with smaller celebrities and influencers.

Bailey attributes a lot of Gigi Pip’s initial success to working with smaller influencers right away. Micro-influencers and celebrities are easier to reach and work with than big celebrities. They also have more personal, loyal followings, so followers trust their product recommendations.

“I believe that any brand that takes the time to really do influencer marketing sees more success,” Bailey says.

Smaller celebrities and influencers can also be a great way to build larger connections. For example, Gigi Pip collaborated with Madeline Edwards, a rising country singer, on a limited edition Western-style hat and did an event with her in Nashville.

That event led to a country label asking Gigi Pip to do an event for the Country Music Awards (CMAs), which led to music publisher and record label BMG asking the company to come to its pre-party for the Grammys.

“There are always spiral effects. Even more connections have come since the Grammys,” Bailey says. “Take a risk; it usually opens up doors for something else.”

5. Give away product.

When Bauer and her husband first started Thread Wallets, they gave wallets to anybody and everybody. Thread Wallets are small and inexpensive to produce, so giving away products was actually a very cost-effective marketing technique.

“Find creative ways to be able to send your product inexpensively to anybody that you possibly can. Message everyone in your phone book or your Instagram followers and say, ‘We’d love to send you a wallet to try out. If you like it, tell a friend or family member,’” she says.

Bauer explains that she has 100 percent confidence that if they send out 1,000 wallets, those people will tell someone that they love the product and create an in-person virality

Bailey recommends baking gifting into your monthly marketing budget from the beginning.

6. Reach out to stylists, agents or other reps.

Bigger celebrities can be notoriously difficult to reach. They usually have a social media team sorting through millions of comments and DMs. It’s easy to get lost in that landslide of engagement. Instead, see if you can get a hold of their stylist, agent or some other representative.

Labels and agencies often have departments specifically trying to build brand partnerships. Connecting with them can be mutually beneficial.

Bailey recommends reaching out to and sending free product to the people actually making a lot of the decisions for celebrities, like stylists.

“Celebrities aren’t necessarily picking out what they’re wearing. The stylists are,” Bailey says. “Contacting stylists is an easier way to get to celebrities. It’s such a great way to at least start out.”

Finding celebrities’ stylists or agents isn’t always easy, and it’s not guaranteed to work. But stylists often work with multiple clients, so a successful connection with one can help you expand your network.

Eight tips for succeeding at influencer marketing.
From left to right: Rachael Peterson, Seamstress, @shepeterpants; McKenzie Bauer, Co-Founder, Thread Wallets; Trevor Reese, Chief Brand Officer, Thread Wallets. | Photo courtesy of McKenzie Bauer and Rachael Peterson

7. Get creative.

Truly successful companies get celebrity attention by thinking outside the box.

When BMG initially reached out to Gigi Pip, they requested a cash sponsorship of the event. The Gigi Pip marketing team countered and offered to create a personalized experience with customized free product.

For the Grammys pre-party, the Gigi Pip team set up a hat bar and created custom hats for the artists. The team listened to the artists explain their style and fit preferences, building a personal relationship with several artists, including Jelly Roll, A.J. McLean and David Archuleta.

8. Shoot your shot.

Though Thread Wallets’ efforts to reach Taylor Swift didn’t pan out (yet), Bauer still recommends dreaming big and not letting fear get in your way.

“It was really good for our team to see what we could do,” she says. “It’s a good reminder that if you have an idea and you think it’s a good idea, go for it!”

During their attempt to reach Swift, Bauer and her team connected with Jason Kelce. Now, Thread is creating custom Philadelphia Eagles bags for Jason Kelce’s family, including some products for Travis.

Bauer hopes this connection can help her achieve her dream of getting a Thread bag to Taylor Swift. 

Jenny Rollins is an award-winning writer, editor, and content producer with a decade of experience. Her work has been featured in Boston Magazine, Harvard Business Review, Deseret News, and Her series on the mental toll frontline healthcare workers experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic won first place for series from both the Utah Society of Professional Journalists and the Rockies Regional Society of Professional Journalists. Jenny lives in Orem with her husband, son and dog. She spends her free time shopping at her local independent bookstores, talking about dinosaurs with her toddler and listening to an absurd number of audiobooks.