LVMH-owned jeweller, Bulgari, on Wednesday announced Chinese actor Yang Yang, the leading man in one of China’s most popular dramas of the year, You Are My Glory, as its new spokesperson.
This move comes a fortnight after watchmaker, Panerai, introduced Yang’s You Are My Glory co-star, Dilraba Dilmurat (known in China as Dilireba), as its first female global brand ambassador.
Yang and Dilmurat are both in demand as brand partners, with Yang also a spokesperson for Dunhill and Hogan, while Dilmurat also works with Clarins and Mikimoto. Both are currently riding a wave of enormous popularity. An episode in which their characters marry on You Are My Glory, aired in August, proved so in-demand that the Tencent Video streaming service crashed.
These appointments come during a difficult-to-navigate period for Chinese celebrities, who are subject to a crackdown on their perceived negative influence on society. This crackdown, as well as other concurrent political sensitivities in China have made the prospect of partnering with Chinese celebrities something of a minefield for brands, too.
Bulgari has been caught up in celebrity controversy in China recently, parting ways with its long-time ambassador, Kris Wu, in July after accusations of rape against the superstar surfaced. Wu has since been arrested.
Earlier this week, superstar Lu Han, decided to terminate his partnership with watchmaker, Audemars Piguet, following comments published in an interview with the brand’s CEO that indicated Taiwan was an independent country, constituting what Lu Han’s studio called a serious violation of the “one-China principle” in a statement announcing the split on Weibo.
Nevertheless, in a market as vital to the luxury industry as China, opting out of partnerships with local stars also comes with its own risks, not least of which is losing access to the reach of some of these stars have.
Yang, for example, currently boasts almost 56 million followers on Weibo and Dilmurat has amassed 76.5 million, dwarfing the following of Bulgari, with 2 million, and Panerai, with a little over 280,000.
Navigating China’s celebrity ecosystem has always been a high-risk, high-reward gamble for global luxury brands, but the stakes are even higher in this volatile, politically charged year.