Celebrities seemed to take on a new lease of life in 2020. Previous years have seen Hollywood’s finest take a back foot, as more relatable influencers sat centre stage – but this year, the famous faces who entertain, educate, lead and delight found new ways to be empathetic and engaging.
We might not have had Glasto’s big 50, or even the Olympic Games, but we did have some outstanding new podcasts, incredible live-stream concerts and of course, Paul Mescal’s chain (if you know, you know.)
The marketing world has had to be more agile than ever this year, changing tack at the drop of a hat. Marketers have called on the most comforting faces to represent brands in authentic ways, often leveraging the reach of celebrities to create enough ROI through fame and PR-able moments, to ensure spend was always worth it. In many ways, we’ve seen a new side to celebrity life – one that is far more human, malleable and marketable. An impressive feat in the midst of pandemic! So, as this whirlwind year draws to a close, who were 2020’s influencers?
- Marcus Rashford – Things felt pretty dire when the government decided not to give kids free school meals during the holidays, but then Marcus rode in on his great Twitter steed, and launched a movement to make sure underprivileged kids were kept fed. More than a million people have now signed his Parliamentary petition stating that “no child should be going hungry.”
- Joe Wicks – During the first lockdown, Joe quickly became an icon as the nation’s P.E. teacher, streaming daily workouts live from his living room. Now, in lockdown 2.0, Joe as just completed a 24-hour workout for Children In Need!
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – AOC has really upped her game in 2020, with speeches to congress that will go down in history (like when she slammed Rep. Yoho for his appalling comments, and stated that “having a daughter does not make a man descent”) and an iconic Twitch stream, to meet young voters on their turf, that nearly garnered the highest number of views ever.
- Lady Gaga – The singer got busy during lockdown, by curating a concert on TV featuring no less than Sir Elton John, Lizzo and Stevie Wonder, raising more than £28m for the World Health Organisation.
- Andy Serkis – AKA, Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films, raised £284k for NHS Charities Together by reading The Hobbit, unabridged, online. Andy’s 11-hour live-stream was watched by more than 650k people worldwide.
- Zendaya – Former Disney Princess and current Gen Z Queen left the world a little more euphoric (couldn’t help ourselves) after her Emmy win. The 24-year-old picked up lead-actress-in-a-drama-series for her turn in Euphoria, cementing herself in the history books by becoming the youngest winner ever in her category.
- X Æ A-X12 – Famous after just one day of being alive, that collection of numbers and letters is name of Elon Musk and Grimes, who announced the birth of their baby to a lot of ridicule on Twitter! Apparently it’s pronounced ‘X-Ash-A-12’, and if you’re wondering why they came up with that name, Grimes has a full explanation for you!
- Rihanna – Ri-Ri never lets us down, especially in the midst of a pandemic, donating over £4.5m to charities working on the frontline via her non-profit organisation, The Clara Lionel Foundation, set up in honour of her grandparents.
- Bob Mortimer – Obviously, the hardest part of 2020 has been giving up our beloved commutes (lol). Luckily, comedian Bob Mortimer stepped in to fill the aching hole in our hearts, by immortalising the ‘Train Guy’. You know the one; he sits in the quiet carriage, barking down the phone with an incessantly annoying voice, spouting meaningless corporate jargon. Running rampant on Twitter back in March, Bob’s Train Guy episodes were (and still are) arguably the funniest thing on the internet.
- Jarvis Cocker – As the nation searched for something to do on a Saturday night (that wasn’t Zooming your mates for the 5th time that day), Jarvis came to the rescue with Domestic Disco – a club night in your living room, from Pulp’s frontman, advertised on Instagram. Sounds like the stuff of retrofuturism dreams. He also followed his Saturday night discos with a Bedtime Stories series on Sunday evenings #dreamy.
- Jon Krasinski – Launched just seven months ago, Krasinski’s Some Good News has done outrageously well. John set up shop on YouTube, raked in his famous friends and set out on a mission to bring the world some much-needed good news. He succeeded, garnering over 3m subscribers, but has subsequently sold his show to CBS and fans are apparently furious!
- John Boyega – Instead of reading our lousy description of Boyega’s inspiring, brave, history-defining speech at Black Lives Matter protests in Hyde Park, watch it Then watch it again, and get to work.
- Michaela Coel – If you’ve been living under a rock, and you’re looking for something to binge watch in lockdown 2.0, we highly recommend I May Destroy You. It’s a comedy-drama series created, written, co-directed, and executive produced by Michaela for BBC One and HBO. The series is set in London and stars Coel (duh) as Arabella, a young woman who seeks to rebuild her life after being raped. Prepare to be floored.
- Paul Mescal – One half of the Normal People duo, Daisy Edgar-Jones (who is equally talented and excellent in the BBC’s *very* sexy adaption of Sally Rooney’s bestselling book) was pipped at the post by co-star Paul Mescal for her place in this list. Why? Because Paul’s character’s costume chain got its own Instagram account… that now has 180k followers.
- Chadwick Boseman – Boseman’s death from colon cancer left a vacuum in the world. He was young, gifted and Black, and the Black community did not need to add another icon to their list of passed inspirations in 2020, after the tragic and untimely deaths of Kobe Bryant, George Floyd and John Lewis. On the silver screen he embodied legendary men and myths that transcended race and re-wrote culture. Off screen, he was a real-life superhero, silent in his own suffering whilst supporting other cancer sufferers.
- Sir Captain Tom Moore – Captain Tom is the gift that keeps on giving. The 100-year-old World War II veteran set out to raise just £1000 for the NHS in the run up to his 100th birthday back in April, by doing 100 laps of his garden. Since then, he’s raised over 32 million for charity, become GQ’s oldest cover star and the oldest person to achieve a UK number one.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger – Nominated by an adoring Connects team member, the 72-year-old former governor of California posted some hilarious videos to keep people upbeat in April, educating on the curfew put in place to keep people safe in California, featuring his miniature pony and donkey.
- Harry Styles – A cover star in good company on this list; instead of being GQ’s oldest, Harry became Vogue’s first man to grace the cover in their entire 127 year history. It would also be foolish to assume Harry didn’t have influence elsewhere in 2020. Namely, the Watermelon Sugar music video, feeding a fan’s fish for them after his car broke down outside their house, and existing as TikTok’s one and only muse.
- Bill Bailey – The myth, the legend, the ballroom dancer. Beloved by TikTok users, Bill and his partner Oti started out as underdogs on Strictly Come Dancing this year, and have risen to the top of the leader board with stunning moves and lots of feel-good factor. Who would’ve thought it?!
- Jacinda Ardern – Nominated by our resident kiwi (and very much approved by the rest of the team), Jacinda won’t necessarily be someone you could collaborate with in 2021 – she’s a bit too busy being New Zealand’s Prime Minister – but she has made global headlines a few times in 2020 for her outstanding leadership qualities. Handling Coronavirus like a pro (unlike the rest of the world), she’s a true example of how to lead a country fairly, decisively and compassionately. Emigration visa, anyone?
If you want to be the brand that sponsored a celebrity on 2021’s list of icons, get the most out of your celebrity campaigns by thinking strategically, building out detailed contracts that layer multiple marketing avenues and leverage a celebrity’s reach as much as possible. We recently wrote an article about just that, which you can read about here.
If you’re looking for your next celebrity ambassador, and want to go about it the right way, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to help.