What Happened: Seems like luxury can’t resist a pretty face — or the millions of followers attached to it. After cutting ties with long-time ambassador Kris Wu in July over alleged rape allegations, Bulgari has now appointed Chinese actor Yang Yang as its new spokesperson. The 30-year-old, who already represents Dunhill and Hogan, starred in one of the most popular Chinese dramas of the year, You Are My Glory, which has accumulated over 2.5 billion views since it was released in late July. The LVMH-owned jeweler is riding this high as well, with the announcement post receiving over 20,000 comments on Weibo.
The Jing Take: In light of China’s recent crackdown on celebrities, choosing the right ambassador has become a daunting task. Over the past few months, authorities have taken measures to curb the influence of the rich and famous, from removing popularity rankings and regulating fan merchandise sales to recently banning “effeminate men and other abnormal esthetics” on TV.
As such, Bulgari should keep a close eye on its newest appointment. Although Yang Yang does not fall under this vague (and derogatory) label of “effeminate” — often depicted as the strong, brooding male lead in action and sports dramas — he commands a passionate fanbase that could stir trouble. In fact, when the final six episodes of You Are My Glory dropped on Tencent Video, netizens ended up crashing the site and caused the glitch to soar to the top of Weibo’s hot searches with almost 20 million mentions.
Yet despite these hurdles, not partnering with any local celebrity isn’t really an option. For one, Yang Yang’s reach of 56 million users on Weibo far surpasses Bulgari’s modest following of 2 million. Moreover, it’s not like the brand’s rivals are laying down their arms: Cartier has Jackson Wang driving engagement for its Pasha De Cartier campaign while LVMH stablemate Tiffany & Co. continues to harness Jackson Yee for views.
Perhaps then, the best way forward is to diversify endorsements, something the jeweler has already been doing since the Kris Wu controversy. In August, Bulgari recruited an array of talents for its Dare to Dream campaign, including “little fresh meat” idol Fan Chengcheng, actress Zhao Lusi, female comedian Lamu Yangzi, and K-pop dancer Lisa from Blackpink. By doing so, the house not only reaches various fan communities but, more importantly, reduces its reliance on a single face. Because if the tide turns and another career ends up on the chopping block, at least Bulgari will have no shortage of KOLs waiting in the wings.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.