The Goss: the celebs in bed with the major car brands

I'm not sure yet what my beloved is getting me for Christmas but I am guessing a car is not top of the list.

Cars are expensive, both to buy and run. But not for a growing gaggle of celebrities who are signing up to flog the latest models, in return for free wheels.

In years past, car brands such as Holden may have enlisted an Australian cricketer or Olympian to spruik their sedans. But the buzzword in motoring is "lifestyle", and it's showing in the faces brands use to promote their vehicles.

Everyone from Lexus to Mazda and Jeep have been recruiting a new breed of ambassador who's more likely to have 100,000 Instagram followers than a gold medal.

Yes is the short answer, according to Holden's new communications director, Anna Betts.

"We're unapologetically targeting women, and influencers are a great way to do that," Betts said at a swanky lunch this month to launch its new Equinox model. Although there was a car outside, the event unashamedly targeted lifestyle press (more often, brands are staging separate functions for the motoring press, who are more interested in top speed than the number of cup holders).

Bondi hangs w Barbie & Bae @mazdaaus #ZoomZoom #MazdaAmbassador

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"It's getting new eyeballs on to our product and considering our product ... we would see there's a unique audience we can reach through our influencer program."

Betts said there was a diverse range of personalities spread across the "Holden family", which includes Michelle Bridges, My Kitchen Rules alumni Ash Pollard and Luke Hines, and newly-signed celebrity chef, Adam D'Sylva.

"We know for a particular kind of consumer, they look to influencers for their lifestyle recommendations, so we saw that as an opportunity," Betts said.

When it comes to status, celebrities can be "friends" of the brand, usually meaning they receive use of a car in return for favourable social media coverage, or a fully-fledged ambassador, which can provide greater perks, including travel.

None of the brands contacted by The Goss pay cash for these arrangements.

The relationships can also lead to additional perks, such as at last weekend's marriage between Channel Nine and Myer personality Lauren Phillips and Lachie Spark, who had a fleet of five personalised Mazdas to ferry guests to and from the wedding venue.

But car relationships can also create sticky situations for celebrities, particularly when different parts of their lives collide.

Last year, Myer did a deal with electric car maker Tesla to have pop-ups in some stores, which clashed with store ambassador Jennifer Hawkins' deal with Land Rover. While the relationships simply meant Myer ensured Hawkins wasn't photographed with any Teslas, the implications can sometimes be more prohibitive.

Last month, several celebrities had to decline invitations to Polo in the City, which is presented by Land Rover. It's likely just as many will be sitting out next month's Portsea Polo, which is hosted by Alfa Romeo.

While celebrities sometimes find ways around - or ignore - their deals for the sake of a day out, clearly there's no such thing as a free car.

Follow Melissa Singer on Instagram @melly_singer.

This story The Goss: the celebs in bed with the major car brands first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.