In October, the teen-drama movie “Better Days” (少年的你) and the TV show “Legend of Fei” (有翡) were dominating social media conversations in China. On-screen Celebrities like Zhao Liying, Wang Yibo, and Zhou Dongyu received lots of online buzzes, but the month’s biggest winner was Jackson Yee, an 18-year-old supporting actor from “Better Days.” Thanks to that performance, Yee jumped to No.3 in global marketing consultancy R3’s October celebrity index (up from No.11 in last month’s ranking).
The film “Better Days” sheds light on the problem of campus bullying, and Yee portrays Xiao Bei, a typical bully who participates in gang fights but also shares a tender relationship with the film’s protagonist Chen Nian (portrayed by actress Zhou Dongyu, who is No.13 on the celebrity ranking). With a public persona that’s quite a contrast from his on-screen character, Yee won many fans over with his convincing performance, even the tougher critics on Chinese IMDB – Douban, one reviewer commented: “this movie signals Yee’s transition from a teen idol to an excellent actor.” “Better Days” scored 8.4 out of 10 on Douban (a very high number for a Chinese movie) and was also a commercial success. Since its release date in late October, the film has garnered over $142.5 million (1 billion yuan) at the box office in China.
Yee began his career with the Chinese boy band TFBoys (his specialty was dancing) where he amassed high earnings and a large fan base, and two other group members – Carry Wang and Roy Wang were also listed in the top 20 of this month’s celebrity ranking. Yee has been trying to shrug off his identity as a teen idol to become a more versatile star. And with more than 70 million followers on Weibo, his fame, looks, and clean-cut style have won him the attention of many top international luxury brands.
Meanwhile, the Italian brand Bottega Veneta named Jason Yee as their official spokesperson for the Asia Pacific region last year and became the brand ambassador for Rimowa in China this year. He has also become a favorite of fashion magazines, frequently posing for issues of Chinese T-Magazine and Nylon.
But all in all, it’s Yee that is now recognized as one of the most commercially valuable celebs in China, ranking 8th on the Forbes China Celebrity 100 for 2019. As Yee successfully leaves his old identity as a teen idol behind to become a serious actor, brands have to wonder how they might be able to spot young celebrities who will go on to produce quality work, as opposed to teen idols who simply stumble into large followings that will eventually wane.
“A large fan base could be an important factor for brands who need immediate growth through brand awareness and buzz creation,” says Sabrina Lee, Managing Director of R3 in China. “However, what we have seen is a lot of brands looking for greater relevance in their celebrity relationships, and they are considering the long-term potential of the influencer to help build a strong fan base. This requires a more robust evaluation, particularly before engaging celebrities in an official capacity. You have to objectively verify a celebrity’s achievements and appeal; not solely rely on the response of current fans.”