Snagging celebrity endorsements

A celebrity endorsement can send a small business' sales skyrocketing. But getting one is not so easy. These owners, however, discovered new ways -- and places -- to get celebs to promote their products, many of them for free.

Dancing with the shirt
Dancing with the shirt
Owner(s): Mike Schwarz
Company: Ribbed Tee

Since we're based in Los Angeles, we've always participated in Hollywood celebrity product lounges. The way it works is a business pays anywhere from $1,000 to $15,000 to 'gift' a bunch of merchandise in exchange for a photograph of a celebrity holding or wearing your product.

Sometimes products are packaged in gift bags for major events like the Oscars or the launch of a television show. That's how our Ribbed Tee undershirt wound up on Damian Whitewood, Pamela Anderson's partner on "Dancing with the Stars." He wore one of our shirts on the TV show so we grabbed a screen shot and posted it on our website. Another time, a friend introduced me to Will Smith's stylist. Immediately, I sent over samples of our undershirts, Will liked them, and now our tanks will be in the movie Men In Black 3.

We found with the celebrity placements, first-time orders increased. Instead of buying just one T-Shirt, customers would buy five or seven at a time. That's because when customers see that people of influence like your product, they figure, 'Well, if Will Smith is wearing it, it's gotta be okay.'

As told to Cindy Waxer, contributing writer @CNNMoney - Last updated February 24 2012: 11:46 AM ET
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