International luxury brands have increasingly acknowledged and embraced the power of Chinese male celebrities to reach consumers. Fans of male celebrities in China are predominately female, in particular, consumers who have recently demonstrated the strong willingness and purchasing power to spend on their idols and buy products they endorse. Following Jing Daily's publication of an article on rising Chinese female brand ambassadors, here is a list of six male celebrities who are being tapped by luxury labels including Burberry, Emporio Armani, Tag Heuer, and more.
Luxury brands that he represents or endorses: Burberry, Bvlgari, Givenchy
Wu Yifan, or Kris Wu, the former member of South Korean boy band EXO, is a megastar to many young Chinese people. His recent appearance at The Rap of China, an American Idol-style hip-hop reality show has made him even more popular among the younger Chinese audience.
Wu has slowly made his way into the international fashion scene. He has made regular front-row appearances at the fashion shows of luxury brands like Givenchy. In 2016, British fashion powerhouse Burberry invited him to join the catwalk at multiple runway shows including its Spring/Summer 2017 show, where prominent figures such as Lily James, Felicity Jones, Jenna Coleman, and Nicholas Hoult had also participated.
Burberry’s partnership with Wu was soon proven to be a success. While the across-the-board sales slumped in 2016, a capsule edition in collaboration with Wu has spurred huge demand from Asian consumers. Analysts reportedly said that Wu's campaign boosted Burberry’s sales and awareness with shoppers on Chinese social media channel WeChat.
A demographic analysis of Wu’s fans shows that Wu has three times of female fans more than his male fans. Most of his female fans are aged between 18 and 30 with the high purchasing power who are eager for purchasing first-tier luxury brands such as Burberry and Chanel.
Luxury brands that he represents or endorses: Louis Vuitton, Cartier, L'Occitane en Provence, Lancome
Lu Han, or simply Luhan, is also a former EXO group member, who is a highly influential millennial celebrity in China. Luhan starred in several box-office hits such as Time Raiders and 20 Once Again. With an annual income of 4.2 million, Luhan was named by Forbes the 37th highest-earning celebrity in China.
Luhan’s popularity can be demonstrated by a Guinness World Records he set: In September 2012, Luhan wrote a football-themed post on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, which had attracted 13.2 million comments as of 5 August 2014 – almost double that of the second most commented post on the Chinese social media channel. On October 8, 2017, Luhan came out about his relationship with the Chinese actress Guan Xiaotong on Weibo. The unexpected announcement has caused the temporary crash of the platform’s server and grabbed the headlines of every Chinese media and social media.
Luhan has become the go-to brand ambassador for many luxury brands targeting younger Chinese generation, who champions the sense of uniqueness, boldness and assertiveness that he symbolizes for his generation.
In 2016, luxury watch and jewelery brand Cartier launched its "Juste Un Clou" campaign with Luhan, whom the brand described as “a new-generation idol full of positive energy” and “an all-around popular artist”. This year, he was featured in the video campaign by Louis Vuitton to unveil the brand's first smartwatch, the Tambour Horizon.
Luxury brands that he represents or endorses: Emporio Armani, Chanel
One might see him less often on China's entertainment shows these days, but Chinese actor Hu Ge is definitely enjoying the spotlight from the international luxury brands. Rose to fame around 2005 for his acting in Chinese Paladin, a TV drama adapted from a popular Chinese role-playing game, Hu has been lauded as a multi-talented actor that excels in singing, writing and more.
In 2006, Hu was seriously injured in a car accident that took him almost one year to recover. This experience, however, made him more mature and demonstrated his endurance and strong personality, which partly explains why he has since received even more applause for his role in shows such as Nirvana in Fire and has been favoured by many luxury brands.
Italian fashion house Emporio Armani, for example, named Hu as its new brand ambassador of China and Asia Pacific in 2016. In the same year, Hu was chosen as the brand ambassador for Chanel Perfume and Cosmetics, a role that has traditionally been occupied by female celebrities.
According to CBN Weekly, a China-based industry and business news magazine, Hu was China’s top celebrity with most commercial value, surpassing Angelababy and Fan Bingbing. Hu is currently taking a break from acting and pursuing his study in the U.S.
Luxury brands that he represents or endorses: Tag Heuer, Armani Exchange
As one of China’s rising “little fresh meat” celebrities, the young-faced good-looking Li Yifeng has been extending his career step by step through music albums, songwriting, TV dramas and movies. Li rose to fame after participating in My Hero talent show in 2007, after which he transitioned himself to the acting business. Li Yifeng is now a household name among Chinese millennials and was named the Best Actor at Chinese film awards in 2013, followed by the title of Most Commercially Valuable Actor in 2014. With an annual income of US 14.3 million, Li, followed by millions of fans, was ranked ninth in the Forbes Chinese Celebrity List in 2015.
Li has also been a model since his early career life. His distinct South Korean fashion style—coats, skinny jeans and beanies— is copied by many of his fans. It, therefore, did not come as a surprise when Swiss luxury watches manufacturer TAG Heuer named Li as its Brand Ambassador for Greater China in July 2015. Many commented that Li would be a good choice for TAG Heuer, whose brand spirit is “Don’t Crack Under Pressure”, since Li himself has met with some doubts for his acting in online series such as "The Lost Tomb".
Recently, Italian fashion powerhouse Giorgio Armani also announced that Li would be the new brand ambassador for its Armani Exchange product line. The announcement on Armani’s official Weibo account has been retweeted more than 20,500 times. Statistics suggest that a majority of Li Yifeng’s fans are under 30 years old, which matches the target audience of the youth-oriented Armani Exchange design.
Luxury brands that he represents or endorses: Montblanc, Guerlain, Valentino, Dior
Born in 1991, the 26-year-old Chinese actor Yang Yang became the first celebrity to be featured on China Post’s stamps in 2016. The stamps were sold out in no time — a testimony of how popular Yang is in China today.
Yang had his first real taste of popularity in 2015 when he starred in a The Lost Tomb, a Chinese suspense web series based on an online novel. He was later named the most influential actor at the China TV Drama Awards. Since then, Yang has participated in many mainstream romance shows, including the most recent 2017 film Once Upon A Time where he co-starred with Liu Yifei, a Chinese actress and long-time luxury brands’ darling.
Yang himself is also gaining his way in the luxury world, attending Valentino, Dior and many other fashion shows. Last month, German luxury brand Montblanc named Yang as its new brand ambassador, a decision that is welcomed by many Chinese marketing observers as Yang is “the new definition of masculinity” and the “appeals to young urban elites born after 1990”.
In particular, Yang’s delicate facial features and fair complexion has earned him skincare and cosmetics brands who traditionally would have favoured female ambassadors. Guerlain, for example, joined hands with Yang Yang for its lipstick campaign in 2016. Not only did Guerlain named the lipstick after him, but the French beauty powerhouse also moved one step forward to make Yang its brand ambassador.
When Yang participated in Guerlain’s live-streaming campaign on Alibaba's Tmall, the brand's Tmall store gained over 50,000 new followers and four million times of interaction in less than an hour. Most of these new fans are between 18 and 25 years old, much lower than the average age of Guerlain’s usual consumers in China.
Luxury brands that he represents or endorses: Estee Lauder
Born in 1990, Hua Chenyu rose to fame after winning the 2013 Super Boy singing contest in China. Thanks to his powerful vocals and creative composition skill, Hua is considered one of the most talented young singers in the country.
Despite critics saying that Hua pales in comparison in terms of appearance and fashion tastes with other “little fresh meats”, he has, nonetheless, won the brand ambassador role of luxury makeup brand Estee Lauder.
“One is known for his undivided passion and talent for music. The other is famed for its focus on and expertise in caring for consumers’ skin. That sounds like a good match for me.” a Chinese Internet user wrote.
While it may be too early to tell if Estee Lauder’s partnership with Hua would significantly boost its sale, it is wrong to underestimate the potential purchasing power of Hua’s fans and their determination to support their idol.
Unlike many other popular male celebrities whose fans are predominately female, the gender ratio of Hua’s fans is almost 1 to 1. More than 40 percent of Hua’s fans were born after 1995, which partly explains why lots of them are social media savvy and have successfully promoted Hua to Sina Weibo’s top trending topic multiple times.