Celebrities still rock: How to tread carefully in the Minefields of brand endorsements.

Celebrity endorsementsWritten by Chipo Mapungwana

According to a recent  article called   “The hazards of celebrity endorsement in the age of twitter” at http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=3191, “Celebrity endorsements are a time-honoured marketing tool that is not about to ride off into the sunset. The theory is that borrowing some of a celebrity’s star power will create both an awareness of, and an interest in a given product.” Recent national and international media reports point to the fact that celebrity endorsements in marketing of  brands  are alive and well.

There are many companies that have recently signed on celebrities to endorse their products.  According to academic research , many brand managers believe that  advertising that uses celebrity endorsers enjoys high popularity among customers.  Each year, companies spend vast amounts of money to convince celebrities to endorse their products and brands. This communication strategy benefits from the widespread belief that celebrities positively influence the image of the advertised brands, such that a key outcome is a favourable effect on brand image and change in customer behaviour.

What Sports celebrities  brand  endorsers   earned     in    2012

Tiger Woods                           Golf                             $55 million

Roger Federer                       Tennis                        $45 million

Phil Mickelson                      Golf                             $43 million

Lebron James                       Basketball                   $40 million

David Beckham                     Football                      $37 million

Kobe Bryant                           Basketball                   $32 million

Rafael Nadal                          Tennis                           $25 million

Mahendra Singh Dhoni    Cricket                         $23 million

Maria Sharapova                 Tennis                         $22 million

Christiano Ronaldo             Football                     $22 million

What is a Celebrity Endorser?

A celebrity endorser is “any individual who enjoys public recognition and who uses this recognition on behalf of a consumer good by appearing with it in an advertisement”

Why does Celebrity Endorsement work ?

“A central goal of advertising is the persuasion of customers,  the active attempt to change or modify consumers’ attitude towards brands”

  • Strong, unique, and favourable brand associations help companies differentiate their products from those of competitors and thus enhance competitive advantage.
  • People like celebrities and they therefore transfer their positive emotions to the product that celebrities endorse.
  • Generally, celebrities are good looking and or can afford to  take good care of themselves, what they wear etc and therefore  customers aspire to be like them.
  • Celebrities lead the kinds of lifestyles that the rest of us would want to live, so having just a little of what we think makes them who they are creates sales for brands.
  • Celebrity endorsement contracts usually last for a long time and because of this the brand can positively affect consumers.

Characteristics of  Celebrity Endorsers that work for brands

 Likeability : The most effective celebrity endorsers are the ones that we view as likable.  While this may mean different things to different people, we generally like people that we can identify with and with people that we want to be like.

What you need to do:  You need to make sure that the person(s) whom you use to endorse your product is (are) likeable. The celebrity endorser must be associated with a positive image, positive lifestyle  that the target market thinks is admirable.  This however many be difficult if your product is a niche product with a niche market or a controversial product that many people do not use. However, this may also create an opportunity to be creative with your advertising channels and advertising content .

Physical attractiveness:  Consumers want to be like celebrities because they find them attractive. Full stop.  And therefore they will support products that these celebrities support for the very reason that they want to be like them and in many cases, while this may not be possible, we transfer our own self- concept to the celebrity by supporting the endorsed brand.

 What to do: Choose celebrities endorsers who have the physical characteristics that appeal to your target market.  This may mean you doing a bit of market research. However, you must also be careful not to offend sensitive groups which may feel that your company in not diversity conscious and inclusive.

Expertise: Your celebrity endorser should be viewed as an expert in this field. Eg If he is a football star, he must really be good at football. If he is a golfer, he must be great at the game and if she is a  swimmer, she has to be a medal winner… Get the point?

What to do: Avoid using “celebrities” who are not known in their field of “expertise.” This will make your brand untrustworthy and your marketing communication will   fall on doubting ears and your sales will suffer  ridicule because of your brand endorser.

Trustworthiness: Trust in an important thing with customers. Customers need to be able to trust your brand in order to use it. Therefore, you need to use only those people
whom your customers can trust. If your brand ambassador cannot be trusted to do what he/she says she/he will do, how then can your customers trust your product?

What to do: When you have an intimate knowledge of your customers , you will know what types of people they trust and admire. Trust comes from integrity and the way that the brand endorse is viewed as living  their  lives. It is also build  from the way that they conduct their public and private affairs. Unfortunately, for celebrities, trust comes from all the things that we see in their class houses.

Some Recent brand endorsement disasters.

 According to FoxBusiness “Six celebrity Endorsement disasters” at http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/02/28/six-celebrity-endorsement-disasters/, celebrity endorsements can quick become brand disasters. According to the article, the Kardashian sisters  endorsed a Mastercard product for teenagers  that was ruled to be “booby-trapped  with a number of large fees for financially  inexperienced teenagers. In 1989 , Madonna was  reportedly paid  US$5 million to use her song “Like a Prayer” in a family advertisement for PepsiCo. The sexually explicit advert was castigated by parents and quickly pulled. In the 2012 summer Olympics, Michael Phelps  was the darling of the USA swimming team and of high spending brands until his image smoking marijuana saw his endorsement deal with Kellogg go up in smoke and others not renewed.

The hazards of Celebrity endorsement to watch out for.

 The Long term nature of the contract

 The long term nature of celebrity endorsement contracts can have a negative impact on the brand depending on the lifestyle of the celebrity. Some celebrities have not aged as gracefully as the brand’s persona required and for some brands, the personal habits of the brand endorsers create public outcry (remember Kate Moss and M&H and her cocaine habit did not mix well)

 The vampire effect

 Another very prominent drawback of celebrity endorsements is the „Vampire Effect‟ or the celebrity overshadowing the brand. This happens when the audience forgets the brand advertised and concentrates more on the celebrity endorsing the brand.

Celebrity greed and over exposure

 A third problem is that of over exposure. This is when a celebrity endorses more that two products of a dissimilar nature. The consequence of this is that customers cease to trust celebrities whose allegiances they do not trust.

What to do

Celebrities are human. Therefore , be careful with the celebrity that you use to endorse your product. While it is not possible for celebrities’ reputations  to be without stain, unfortunately we are human and  we are not always forgiving of celebrities who mess up or of the brand that use them.

For Business branding and Marketing Consulting, contact Chipo on chipomaps@gmail.com

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About chipomaps

A brand reputation, marketing and new media trainer and consultant. Constantly curious, constantly learning.
This entry was posted in Branding, Marketing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Celebrities still rock: How to tread carefully in the Minefields of brand endorsements.

  1. amruth says:

    nice post …,, thank u,,,,Chipo Mapungwana. in India Celebrity Brand Management
    company which is doing better in celebrity endorsement.

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