The authentic celebrity brand: unpacking Ai Weiwei’s celebritised selves

Chloe Preece

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This research extends prior work on celebrity brands to focus on the issue of how authenticity is constructed, communicated and managed in the manufacturing of celebrity. Using a case study approach, this paper explores the branding of contemporary artist-activist Ai Weiwei, who has emerged as a heroic celebrity figure. We find that authenticity is key to this brand narrative and is derived from a unique vision of the world which is amplified, reproduced and co-created to create emotional engagement. We argue that by analysing the celebrity brand as a corporate brand, a more holistic understanding of what constitutes an ‘authentic celebrity’ can be attained.
Summary statement of contribution: By building up a ‘portfolio’ of brands, celebrities generate leverage, synergy, clarity and credibility to raise awareness of brand values. This is illustrated through the various roles Ai has played: artist, architect, blogger and dissident, which all serve to reinforce his authentic vision. This is of wider interest to those researching how moral or political causes can be transmitted and augmented through celebrity and in opening up pathways for further understanding of celebrity brand theoretics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)616-645
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Marketing Management
Issue number5-6
Early online date19 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015


  • Celebrity Brands
  • Celebrity Activism
  • Culture and Consumption
  • Biographical Methods
  • Narrative Analysis
  • Social Media

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