Bringing in a Ringer

Celebrity endorsement is a staple of the advertising industry. If you market to consumers, this tactic can be successful regardless of what product or service you sell. One night of watching television or taking the time to flip through a couple of magazines confirms that nearly everyone is willing to use celebrities to help get the word out. Research has reached a few conclusions in favor of the practice:

  • Celebrities make advertisements believable.
  • The presence of a celebrity increases recognition of an ad later.
  • Celebrity endorsements can positively enhance the way consumers view a brand.

This all makes sense if you think about it: people identify with and love celebrities. If a celebrity lends his likeness to a brand or product, then consumers will naturally associate the celebrity’s image with the brand or product. We know that it works; now the question is what are the best practices for celebrity endorsement?

Celebrity Placement?

Combining celebrity endorsement with product placement is nothing new. Every Hollywood event has gift bags filled with free–and often pricy–stuff for celebrities. The hope is that the celebrities will be seen using the products or, with any luck, will verbally mention them in interviews. This concept becomes reality as paparazzi do their jobs. A few famous people, or one really famous person, spotted wearing the same article of clothing or designer can ignite a frenzy. Some feel that this form of marketing has gone too far. Recently celebrities Ben Affleck and Jennifer Gardner were accused of taking money from Starbucks in return for appearing in tabloids and entertainment magazines with Starbucks coffee in hand. Both parties have denied the allegations, but the jury is still out.

Unpaid Endorsement?

A brand can certainly save a bundle by using a celebrity’s comments to structure an ad campaign without paying them. 7 Eleven currently has a promotional campaign built around President Obama’s comments about Slurpees being “delicious drinks.” With any luck, the campaign will be a huge success. Although presidents generally aren’t tapped for celebrity endorsement outside of political arenas, Obama has more than enough influence–at least with the younger Slurpee crowd–despite recent poll numbers, to successfully sell a product. Strategizing about how to get celebrities to mention a brand favorably could potentially become a strategy at firms.

Traditional Model?

The traditional model of contracting a celebrity and paying them for radio spots, television and print ads will probably never go away. After all, if you pay someone, the person will say what you want, when you want, how you want. The hardest part is deciding which celebrity to choose. There are some general things to think about here.

  • Does their image match your image? If not, most consumers will ultimately determine that you are stretching and the ads will be less effective.
  • Is the celebrity reliable? Yes, they will say what you want when they are filming a contracted TV spot, but will they make the news for saying something off color or, worse yet, doing something deplorable? If you aren’t coming up with your own examples here, think about Nike and Michael Vick.
  • Are they famous enough? While a less famous celebrity will come cheaper, you have to consider whether your spokesman or spokeswoman can get the job done. Here in the Tampa Bay market, Buccaneers first-round draft pick Gerald McCoy is currently doing spots for Church’s Fried Chicken. It isn’t clear whether he has enough following to warrant this job. Maybe they are hoping that he becomes more famous in years to come, and that they can establish a relationship with him early on.

Regardless of whom your spokesperson is you should plan and choose wisely. Even small brands and local franchises can get into the action; it doesn’t necessarily cost millions.


Duke University- Advertising Study

USA Today

Brand Channel

AMA Tampa Bay

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