Top 30 Celebrity KOLs

For those firms aiming to market their goods and services to a younger demographic in China, there is often a go-to strategy: pay a celebrity KOL to endorse your brand via his or her massive social media following. This is a trend that WiC has reported on, but for the first time we’ve decided to put together a list of the 30 most powerful of these celebrity KOLs (key opinion leaders).

The size of their followings varies substantially: ranging from 124.3 million to 11.7 million on popular social media platform Sina Weibo, for example. The most influential star on short video app Douyin (known as TikTok outside China) has 50.5 million followers.

They span an age range of 18 to 38, with the list featuring slightly more men than women – a reflection, we suspect, of the spending power of China’s younger female fans and their adoration of boy bands.

A surprisingly large number of the KOLs come from three big (but relatively poorer) provinces: Henan, Hunan and Sichuan. Only one comes from Hong Kong and just one too from the richer coastal province of Guangdong. Also surprising is the lack of Taiwan-born stars – a decade or so ago at least five would have appeared in a top 30 like this.

Collectively the group endorse more than 70 brands. Some of the brands are more prolific – L’Oreal (with its many cosmetics brands) stands out among foreign multinationals in its use of the top names, while Huawei is one of most frequent sponsors among the local firms. Many of them will be familiar (especially the luxury goods firms, the fast fashion retailers and the fast food firms). However, some of the domestic Chinese brands being endorsed won’t be as well-known. Ever heard of Zhonghua, Yunifang, Heilan, Leysen, Lafang and Proya?

We think this list of the top 30 KOLs should be of general interest to anyone wanting to know more about the people influencing China’s increasingly affluent consumers.

Click here to start the list, which features 30 profiles – detailing who endorses what – along with photos.