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Celebrity Endorsements: Overview


Do you want to be like Mike?

Growing up, I always wanted to be Kelly Kapowski from Saved by the Bell.

She was the all-American girl next door, captain of the cheerleading squad, homecoming queen. I would’ve bought just about anything being peddled by actress Tiffani Amber Thiessen, thinking that it would take me one step closer to achieving my goal. I just assumed that wearing her K-Pow fragrance and smelling like Kel would help me to better capture her essence.

(Perhaps you would’ve rather been like Mike: Did you spend your allowance buying Air Jordans or Hanes? …Come on, even Kevin Bacon did!

Anyway, as the years went by, the Saved by the Bell kids went off to college, Zack and Kelly got married in Vegas, and much to my disappointment, she never put out a perfume. So I moved on. I eventually found someone new to idolize for all the same qualities I still so admire about Bayside High’s #1 sweetheart. (And this one did put out a fragrance or two.)

Ladies and gentlemen, Ms. Britney Spears…

Watching Britney Spears rock the small screen consecutive years at the Super Bowl really inspired me…to drink Pepsi:

(Personally, always preferring the taste of Coca-Cola, I felt kind of guilty about how quickly I brushed away my brand loyalty. But then I heard that Britney specifically requests a six pack of Coke in her dressing room and I felt a little better about things.)

So what is it about celebrity endorsements that make them so compelling? As my personal anecdote may suggest, the theory is: We strive to be like the people we admire and feel that we are making connections with our favorite stars through the products and objects they associate themselves with. The more likeable the celeb, the more likeable the product becomes.

Occasionally, these endorsements do go horribly wrong. For instance, consider the recent case of Aflac and Gilbert Gottfried — there is a major risk associated with tying your brand to a comedian known for his irreverent sense of humor. One misstep and consumers can just as easily be poisoned against your brand as they can be swayed in your favor.  For as we hope to have these famed spokespeople rub off on us with the purchase of their products, we are not always willing to risk transferring one’s unfavorable characteristics to ourselves.

Getting down to business, the real question becomes: Are these endorsements effective? Do they lead to sales or increase consumer loyalty?

According to Smart Money, the answer to those questions is inconclusive. Most studies to date focus on the changes in stock price triggered by the announcement of a new celebrity partner. Results of these studies generally show an increase in stock price, which suggests that the market believes endorsements work.

Whether or not the numbers reflect it, there are certainly many benefits to leveraging a successful celebrity partnership. One major advantage noted by Ad Age is that putting a well known face to the name helps cut through the clutter and make the brand even more memorable – assuming your spokesperson fits the right criteria to optimize the campaign success:

  • Credibility
  • Likeability
  • Authentic brand match
  • Exposure (well known but not overexposed)

So, while I’m not sure if Mark Whalberg’s steamy Calvin Klein ads sold any jeans or briefs, and I have no idea how much Queen Latifah increased Cover Girl’s cosmetic sales, I do know that we remember these celebrities and the brands they brought to life. So if nothing else, it brand recognition is a success.

And at the end of the day, that’s a big part of good marketing.


1 Comment

  1. Dawn Del Rio June 1, 2011 Reply

    Well put! I do believe that celebrity endorsement boosts sales, though–at least temporarily (perhaps habit-forming ones). But they definitely make brands more memorable–who could forget (middle-agers) Joe Namath wearing Legg’s pantyhose?!

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