We've talked a lot about the importance of bringing diversity into the board room - from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, race, gender, sex - and experience - the more unique experiences you can bring to the table, the better. One practice that companies have employed for many years is bringing celebrities into their boards. Bringing a big name not only brings publicity to the company but a different experience and perspective that can help the company see things differently.
Here are some recent examples of celebrities who have gotten in on the boardroom action, and what value they bring to the literal - and proverbial - table.
Oprah joined the board of Weight Watchers in 2015 following her decision to buy 10 percent of the company. Her role on the board is mainly to advise on future programs, and she said that she is uniquely qualified for this position because she is using the products and the philosophy herself. Oprah has publicly discussed her weight, and the world feels invested in her success. By not only joining the board - but acting as a spokesperson for the brand - she has the opportunity to help boost the company and reinvigorate a brand that was starting to falter.
Former NBA star Shaq sits on a number of boards, such as Papa John’s pizza, and while many celebrities are seen as being gimmicky, he certainly is not. Shaq only invests and advises brands and companies that he personally uses and invests in - allowing him to give more personal advice than appointing someone random. Shaq also has degrees from both LSU and the University of Phoenix and his business advice is taken seriously by those he works with.
Ciara took the traditional route of many artists who want to get into business - starting with a fragrance and fashion line. But Ciara quickly became known as a woman with incredible business acumen and insight to offer. That’s why she was asked to join the board of a Seattle marketing-tech company, as well as the board of Bright Lights Acquisition Corp. According to the company CEO, he reached out to Ciara - a friend of his - to join the board and “tap deep into cultural trends that resonate with consumers, important expertise for a business that sells marketing tools to other businesses.” She has been a game-changer for both companies.
Serena Williams, Professional Tennis Player
Serena Williams sits on the boards of both SurveyMonkey and Poshmark - the online retail company where (primarily) women can buy and sell clothing, shoes, and accessories. Serena joined the board of Poshmark in 2019 because she loves “working with a company that gives anyone an opportunity to become an entrepreneur.” Williams was a frequent purchaser and began selling on the platform as well. She also tied her “closet” to a charity she launched back in 2016 - The Yetunde Price Resource Center - which she created in honour of her older sister who was tragically killed. Serena’s “posh Closet for Charity” gives her the chance to sell old tennis uniforms and gowns, and donate all proceeds to a cause near and dear to her.
Celebrities have long played a role in business, and while it can be a risk, many find it to be personally rewarding, and the companies themselves see a huge return on their decision.