For the Lost Generation and Baby Boomers, getting an autographed photo from a celebrity was worth bragging rights. For ’80s Millennials, the autograph was cool, but wearing the same attire as celebrities was a pretty big deal (ex. Michael Jordan’s footwear or holding up an Adidas shoe at a Run DMC concert). For ’90s Millennials and Generation Z, bragging rights escalated when their favorite celebrities followed them on social media platforms.
And thanks to the worldwide health epidemic from December 2019 and still running its wrath in 2021, celebrities have found themselves with a bit more time in their hands. Like their everyday fans, they’re at home far more than usual and in social isolation. But money has to be made, and they’ve figured out new ways to make their fame work to their advantage. In addition to social media, there’s platforms like Cameo.
Founded in 2017, and with a selection of 35,000 celebrities, Cameo customers can order personalized videos with their favorite pranksters, athletes (baseball, hockey, wrestling, basketball), actors, singers, rappers, comedians, social media influencers, “queer voices,” reality TV stars, political commentators, international stars and even animals.
The Chicago-based company offers this personalized option for as low as $5 and as high as $3,000, depending largely upon the celebrity’s pricing. According to Cameo’s official site, chosen celebrities have up to seven days to complete the transaction and potentially a redo if the customer’s name is pronounced incorrectly or “misses the mark” for the purpose of the video.
Customers who buy a Business Cameo can use celebrity videos to endorse or promote a brand, with a commercial license for 30 days. There are also Cameo Live options for celebrities to do “drop-ins” for video calls or virtual events.
The Windy City business has paid off, too, with a $100 million Series C funding. According to their Medium blog, this investment brings their total funding to more than $165 million, at a valuation of just over $1 billion. Some investors include the who’s who in the business world, such as Jonathan Turner with the global investment firm, e.ventures; Amazon’s Alexa Fund; UTA Ventures; SoftBank Vision Fund 2; Valor Equity Partners; Counterpoint Global (Morgan Stanley); and GV (formerly Google Ventures). Cameo talent investors include legendary skateboarder and entrepreneur Tony Hawk.
“The pandemic put extra stress on the already unstable business models supporting talent across sports and entertainment ecosystems,” said Steven Galanis, Cameo’s CEO, via their Cameo blog. “It catalyzed a massive shift in awareness and widespread adoption of direct-to-fan models, which has, in turn, created a new foundation for fan engagement.”
And that fan engagement has held up as their main source of income, with more than 2 million reported videos for everything from birthday greetings and congratulatory messages to roasts. Cameo also hit the global scene in June 2019, expanding to 178 different countries and a 20% international purchasing rate. (Out of a total of 178 countries, their talent base can be found in 138 countries.) With its current success in the U.S. and beyond, they’re also focusing on growth in Australia and the United Kingdom.