The most decorated U.S. male athlete of all time, Apolo Anton Ohno, is the latest addition to the Personal Capital marketing campaign that employs star power to boost brand recognition.
The robo-adviser, which manages $17.8 billion in assets, announced last Tuesday that Ohno is a part of its “Financial Heroes” campaign designed to partner with influential business leaders and athletes to be a catalyst for raising discussions about awareness and financial wellness.
Ohno joins Personal Capital’s roster that includes holistic health guru Dr. Deepak Chopra, two-time former pro basketball all-star Baron Davis, and CEO of Peek.com Ruzwana Bashir. Personal Capital is the latest wealthtech company to deploy digital marketing campaigns that leverage star power to promote brand image.
For example, fellow robo-adviser Betterment tapped the talents of actress Maggie Siff, who currently plays psychiatrist Wendy Rhoades on the Showtime series “Billions.” Acorns Grow Inc., a robo-adviser that recently announced plans to go public, is backed by celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, Bono, Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Durant.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, for example, tells his now internet-famous story of when he was down to his last $7, and how that moment ties into his support for the popular robo-adviser Acorns, which he is also an investor.
Social-media-driven upstart Public.com even had Michael Bolton remake his 1983 “How am I supposed to live without you” with a song that asks retail investors to ditch commission-free brokerages that make money from payment for order flow.
Personal Capital, for one, is largely focusing on having these celebrities share tips and advice on money management with the general public, said the firm’s chief marketing officer Porter Gale. Yet, the first step to selecting “Financial Heroes” to join the marketing campaign is authenticity and timeliness of what is happening in society, Gale said.
For example, when Personal Capital brought on Baron Davis to the campaign last year, it followed the uprising of racial equity after the murder of George Floyd, Gale said. “Baron really wanted to bring a message of financial literacy to African Americans,” she said.
With Apolo, Gale said she incorporated intentional inclusion, meaning she specifically sought after a spokesperson of Asian descent.
“I felt at this time it’s really important to highlight successful Asian Americans to do anything we can do against the horrible anti-Asian hate that has been swelling in our country,” Gale said. “Apolo happens to be half Japanese, and his story is very authentic around the importance of financial wellness since often athletes, especially Olympians, have very short career spans where they have early retirement from their main career.”
Personal Capital’s marketing campaign, which started in September 2020, also aligns with the investor shift to managing more of their lives online in response to the pandemic that has given the digital-advice industry a tailwind.
“More and more we have seen celebrities, business leaders, and athletes share tips and advice on money management with the general public,” said Thomas Leahy, research analyst at Backend Benchmarking. “Personal Capital is smart to partner with a high-profile athlete like Apolo Ohno, especially when his story aligns so well with many of the core tenets of sound investing.”
Moreover, research shows that 35% of teenagers are using social media to learn about investing, according to a Wells Fargo study. Almost half (45%) of teens surveyed said they were more interested in investing this year because of the GameStop social media frenzy.
“Since their inception, robo-advisers like Personal Capital have encouraged long-term, diversified investing which benefits from persistent contributions not short-term, blockbuster trading,” Leahy. “In the age of flashy trades that make for juicy headlines and boastful stories, both Ohno and robo-investing emphasize consistency and process, making the partnership affirm the right ideas.”
Although it has yet to be seen if celebrity partnerships will spark a meaningful rise in assets-under-management, it is well-understood that association with someone like Ohno can boost brand image and can help build trust with new users, Leahy said. Personal Capital is used by over 2.9 million people, according to the announcement.
“The fact that Personal Capital has a suite of free tools that can be used by everyone makes the story even more compelling for those new to investing,” Leahy said.
Moreover, since Personal Capital is a digital tool that is sold more like a product than a service, it makes sense for them to go the route of celebrity endorsement, said Samantha Russell, FMG Suite’s chief evangelist.
“But for the vast majority of financial advisers, who are building relationships and selling that relationship as the main value, not an individual product, celebrity endorsements don’t work the same way,” she said.
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As our second lead editor, Cindy Hamilton covers health, fitness and other wellness topics. She is also instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. Cindy received a BA and an MA from NYU.