Justin Bieber might just be the most influential teenager in the world. The Canadian crooner boasts 15 million Twitter followers, routinely causes stampedes at shopping malls, and has been known to make young girls faint.
But when it comes to generating publicity for worthwhile causes, his inexperience shows. Bieber ranked dead last in a survey of the most valuable celebrity charity relationships.
The study was conducted by New York based research firm General Sentiment as part of FORBES’ annual giving report. It aimed to determine which stars confer the highest percentage of their personal fame on good causes (see next page for methodology). The publicity Bieber generated for nonprofit Pencils of Promise, which builds schools in the developing world and trains young leaders, totaled $82,887—or 0.002% of his personal publicity value. At $4.2 billion, his is by far the highest of anyone on the list.
“He’s the perfect storm for generating high media value: lots of publicity in high impact sources, and an audience eager and able to spread that content,” says Mark Iafrate, a senior analyst at General Sentiment. “The amount of discussion, along with the quality of the sources, all push him way above everyone else … if he just spent a little more time on [causes], he could do a lot better.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the star who lavished the largest percentage of personal publicity on a cause was Jon Bon Jovi. The Jersey rocker and his band generated $449,932 in press for his pay-what-you-can restaurant Soul Kitchen; that number represents over 2% of Bon Jovi’s own media value.
Second on the list is Paul McCartney, who conferred $1,065,013 on PETA. That’s about 1.4% of his personal publicity value. McCartney’s older audience, although smaller than Bieber’s, likely has more disposable income to give to charity.
U2 rounds out the top three, donating publicity worth $1,021,768—or 0.72% of frontman Bono and rest of the group’s total media value—to the ONE campaign. (Through private equity firm Elevation Partners, Bono holds an indirect stake in Forbes Media).
It’s important to note that efficiently directing a relatively large portion of one’s fame toward a cause isn’t the only way celebrities can give. There is, for instance, cash. Oprah Winfrey’s connection to the Oprah Winfrey Foundation ranked 19th in General Sentiment’s survey—the best of her many charitable relationships—yet her Angel Network has raised over $80 million for good causes across the globe.
Stars like Winfrey, Bieber and Lady Gaga (who finished in the middle of the pack for her work with VIVA Glam, a M.A.C Cosmetics lipstick line whose full sale price goes toward fighting HIV/AIDS) also have astronomically higher personal publicity values than some of the other stars on this list. This makes directing a proportionate amount of their fame to charitable causes harder than it is for less-celebrated peers.
Others, like 18th-ranked Simon Cowell, are often overshadowed by bigger names contributing to their favored causes. That might explain why the "X Factor" producer only generated $6,587 in publicity for the “Everybody Hurts” charity song he curated for Haiti relief, featuring Mariah Carey, Leona Lewis, Susan Boyle, Rod Stewart, Miley Cyrus and none other than Jon Bon Jovi. Even though the tragedy occurred nearly two years ago, the blogosphere is still buzzing, if faintly, about the effort—the gift that keeps on giving.
General Sentiment tracks over one billion topics of conversation—from politicians and social issues to products and brands—emanating from over 50 million sources of online content. These include stories from major news outlets, social media sources and general websites.
To determine this list, the firm determined a media value—a customized, proprietary metric weighted by sentiment and prominence of source, with a $5 CPM (a fairly standard cost-per-thousand views) built in—for the top 20 entertainers on FORBES’ Celeb 100 list.
A positive mention from a respectable source like CNN was “worth” more than the same mention from someone’s personal blog. The “exposure” of the source was calculated by using metrics like Google page rank, viewership (for news publications), Twitter followers, Alexa rank, and other categories.
General Sentiment then pulled data about discussions of the celebrities, along with mentions of their charitable causes and organizations. They looked for multiple spelling and case variations like “lady gaga,” “LADY GAGA,” and “Lady GaGa,” including Twitter handles (This explains, at least in part, why Bieber’s personal media value is so high).
Next, the company did a correlation analysis to attribute media value generated by the celebrities for their charitable organizations and causes. FORBES matched the most valuable of each celebrity’s relationships against their personal media value to determine just what percentage of his or her fame was “donated” to the cause.
Bieber may have finished at the bottom of our top 20 this year, but perhaps he’ll move from Grinch to Santa in 2012—a portion of sales from his new album, Under The Mistletoe, will be donated to charity.
- Justin Bieber
- Jon Bon Jovi
- Jon Bon Jovi
- Oprah Winfrey
- Oprah Winfrey