Celebrity advertising seems to be everywhere today, and it is for a good reason. When consumers see a face that they trust representing a product or service that solves a problem, then the value proposition of the item in question grows. Marketers use such an endorsement in the hopes that a positive image will pass along to the company and brand image.
This method of marketing began in the late 18th century. Josiah Wedgwood and Sons, who produced chinaware and pottery, used royal endorsements for their items to show that there was value in their company. By receiving support from the Crown, their business could effectively promote their items to other people.
The next innovation in celebrity advertising came at the turn of the 20th century when trading cards were given to potential customers. These items, similar to the modern baseball card, were handed out when someone expressed interest in a product. They would show the celebrity with the item in question. Cigarette brands began inserting them into their packages as a way to encourage consumer loyalty.
The pros and cons of celebrity advertising today are similar to the ones that organizations faced in the past. This partnership can produce exceptional results, but it can also cause spectacular failures.
List of the Pros of Celebrity Advertising
1. Celebrity advertising helps to create instant brand credibility.
Hiring a celebrity allows a business to extend the equity of that individual to the brand requiring promotion. It is a way to begin building trust with a product or service because fans of the celebrity will transfer their appreciation of that person’s work to what you provide to the marketplace. This advantage can also reassure the potential customers that what is being pitched to them is of an adequate quality.
If celebrities were to risk promoting a product that did not meet expectations, then they would damage their reputation – and the potential customers for a brand recognize this fact.
2. Celebrities can help a brand stand out immediately.
When a business utilizes the services of a celebrity to promote products or services, then this advertising option becomes a way to differentiate their brand from their competition. There are additional ways to stand out with this advantage as well, including better advertisement recall in the future, staying at the top of the mind for that industry, and memorable connections with a personality that potential customers appreciate.
3. The use of celebrity advertising can create or open new markets.
Choosing a specific celebrity that relates to a specific marketplace or consumer demographic gives a business the opportunity to push their brand in new directions. One of the best examples of this advantage comes from Nike, who used to primarily sponsor track and field or tennis athletes before the 1980s. Then they chose to partner with Michael Jordan to begin working with basketball – and it creates a partnership that was so successful that the products were eventually spun off into a subsidiary company that continues to relate to consumers in that athletics niche.
4. It can rescue a brand that is about to fail.
When celebrities begin to advertise a specific product or service, then their equity can be enough to breathe new life into a product or service that is about to fail. This advantage can also apply to a startup service that has zero equity in their marketplace, but a product or service with a high value proposition that needs consumer recognition to be successful.
When Priceline first offered services to consumers in 2013, they hired William Shatner to build brand recognition by offering equity in the company. The business is part of Booking Holdings, which was trading at over $1,800 per share as of July 2019.
5. Celebrities are more effective than other endorsers.
Research around the world consistently shows that celebrities are the most effective genre of endorsers that are available to companies today. The message that they offer to consumers promotes the brand better than professional experts, company managers, or the typical consumer. Because of the benefits of this advantage, the customer’s opinion of an advertising brand can improve immediately.
When celebrity advertising is compared to non-celebrity marketing, the attitudes of the consumers who hear both messages is significantly higher when someone famous is pitching to them. This advantage creates higher purchasing intentions as well.
6. It can help a business to overcome a crisis situation.
Celebrities can use their equity to help businesses overcome crisis situations that might otherwise take them down. Their popularity, societal status, and attractiveness helps to turn around a situation where the company would otherwise be facing layoffs, product removal, or complete bankruptcy.
Old Spice was able to leverage the celebrity power of Terry Crews in 2010 with its Odor Blockers series to create some grassroots marketing that would eventually help the brand to go viral with their unique filmography and storytelling.
7. Celebrities can produce an immediate boost in revenues.
Even if the contract with a celebrity is expensive, companies consider this marketing option because of the immediate power that is possible in their endorsement. There are several examples of this advantage in the past 20 years. When Nicole Kidman signed with Chanel in 2003, the global sales of the brand’s products rose by up to 30%. Jamie Oliver partnered with Sainsbury to create billions in extra revenues over a two-year period.
Jamie Lee Curtis worked with Activia yogurt to take it from being a relatively unknown brand to the #1 product in its category in the U.S. market.
8. Celebrity advertising makes the product feel familiar to the consumer.
The placement of a celebrity on a specific product makes it easier for consumers to embrace the idea of a purchase. Mainstream professionals who are in the “A List” of celebrities are known all over the world. That’s why a picture of that person on anything from a soda can to a television commercial can reduce the barriers that are in place when considering a purchase. Die-hard fans will immediately flock to the item or service because their favorite actor, musician, or athlete is on the item.
9. The average consumer wants to feel like they are a celebrity.
The success stories of celebrities and their fame is something that the average fan craves. They want to experience a taste of the lifestyle, and the money that comes with being famous wouldn’t hurt either. Some people like to purchase items from a celebrity endorsement because it allows them to live vicariously through the item or service in question. By using the same items that the celebrities use, it can make consumers feel like they have a direct connection to that person.
This advantage is one of the reasons why a celebrity advertisement tends to be memorable. People pay attention to the things that they prioritize, which means an endorsement becomes an unforgettable experience.
List of the Cons of Celebrity Advertising
1. Celebrities can misbehave badly, and their actions can become representative of a brand.
When celebrities sign up to endorse a specific product, service, or brand, then the organization is partnering with everything (and everyone) that comes along with that individual. If that person is well-regarded for their accomplishments and doesn’t have any scandals in their background, then the results can be impressive. With this disadvantage, it is also important to note that behaviors can change or stay hidden.
Subway made impressive gains in the global market thanks to their spokesperson Jared Fogle, who lost weight while eating the brand’s sandwiches every day. He represented the company for over 15 years until his tenure was immediately terminated due to his solicitation of minors and receipt of child pornography. Even with a quick switch away from their celebrity endorsement, the damage to Subway’s reputation was already done.
2. A celebrity can overshadow a brand.
When a celebrity is very famous, then their popularity could overshadow the brand recognition you’re hoping to achieve by hiring them. This disadvantage usually occurs when the advertising focuses on the individual more than the product, or when celebrities are endorsing multiple products at the same time.
Shaquille O’Neal may not be playing basketball any more, but he is an active endorser of more than 50 products – and that doesn’t include the businesses he owns. When someone is that active in the marketplace, then your marketing efforts will not create as much equity as they would if that person were sponsoring 1-2 products or services instead.
3. It is not cheap to secure the services of a celebrity.
If you are a non-profit organization, an NGO, or a charity, then it may be possible to avoid this disadvantage because the celebrity might donate their services to your needs. When a for-profit business hires a celebrity for an endorsement, then there are millions of dollars that will exchange hands before the campaign goes live. Beyoncé is working with PepsiCo on a 10-year, $50 million deal.
4. The endorsement can backfire for the celebrities too.
If a brand doesn’t perform well after the endorsement or investment of a celebrity, then the fallout can impact the equity of the individual just as it can for the company. Justin Timberlake joined Bai Brands in 2016 as their Chief Flavor Officer and became an investor in the line of products that Dr. Pepper would eventually purchase for $1.7 billion. In June 2019, the organization was sued over its ingredients, naming Timberlake specifically because of his “monetary assistance, creative inputs, and marketing… helped elevate the better-for-you and name-recognition of the brand.”
5. Celebrities might decide to promote items in an unauthorized way.
Because of the influences in social media that are available today, celebrities can sometimes choose to promote items in a way what is not authorized by an organization. The modern marketing campaign has numerous elements to consider with it, including keywords, hashtags, metadata, and everything else that encourages organic traffic to view content. If a celebrity starts promoting items on their platforms in a manner that is different than the rest of the brand, then the results can be less than spectacular.
6. Celebrities endorsements must have accurate targeting.
Steve Olenski notes for Forbes that celebrity advertising is effective when the influencer is promoting a product or service toward a similar target audience. Using someone to pitch something that is not interesting to their audience is a waste of time and money. “For example,” writes Olenski, “you wouldn’t see LeBron James promoting makeup. He’s one of the biggest stars on the planet, and yet without his celebrity being targeted accurately toward the potential users of products promoted by him, his effective will be relatively small.”
7. A celebrity carries a brand of their own in addition to other advertising opportunities.
When celebrities have enough brand power associated to their name, there doesn’t need to be an explicit endorsement for a business to gain a sales benefit from their actions. Appearing next to a product can be enough, but only when there is significant staying power for that strength. If you bank on LeBron James for your next sports drink, the power of influence will stay only as long as the results he creates on the basketball court continue to happen.
After a devastating 2018-2019 season, the Los Angeles Lakers are partnering Anthony Davis and James together as a way to salvage both brands. Since they both wear the same jersey number, Nike was going to produce #6 jerseys with James’ name on them, but now production issues are preventing that action from taking place.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Celebrity Advertising
Celebrity advertising can be a useful solution when a brand can find the right person to represent their message. The results can be iconic, like with the Air Jordan brand from Nike. They can also be failures when celebrities don’t behave as they should, which Nike also experienced with Tiger Woods because of the reasons his divorce was finalized. That outcome lost over 100,000 customers and $2 million in sales for the organization.
That is why an extensive vetting process must occur before offering a contract. The relationship must work well for both parties for the marketing to be useful.
The pros and cons of celebrity advertising are essential to consider for a business of any size. Even local celebrities, like a TV news anchor, can provide more recognition to products and services. If you know that your products or services offer a robust value proposition, then the voices of celebrities can ensure that your customers hear your message.
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