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Celebrity Endorsement – The Pros and Cons

Appropriate celebrity branding can reap huge rewards for any company, but this marketing strategy is not without risks.

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Celebrity Endorsement – The Pros and Cons

Appropriate celebrity branding can reap huge rewards for any company, but this marketing strategy is not without risks.

Ever since Josiah Wedgwood first used a royal endorsement to market his pottery in the 1760s, companies have been using the rich and famous to promote their products (many common sales techniques such as direct mail, money-back guarantee, free delivery, illustrated catalogues and buy one get one free are also attributed to Josiah Wedgwood). Appropriate celebrity branding can reap huge rewards for any company, but this marketing strategy is not without risks.

Not all celebrity endorsement of products is either paid for or wanted. The prime minister has recently been accused of “ruining” Adidas Sambas after being pictured wearing a pair at Downing Street. During an interview Rishi Sunak was pictured in a box-fresh pair of Adidas Sambas, paired with suit trousers and a white shirt. Almost immediately the image went viral and GQ magazine issued a warning about the “death” of the popular trainer. Sales plummeted so much that other publications quickly rushed out lists of alternative trainers. In response the prime minister, clearly taken aback by the intense media interest in his attire, offered a tongue-in-cheek “fulsome apology to the Samba community”.

Here are some of the pros and cons of celebrity endorsement.

Pros

  • Increases brand recognition – with the reach of social media a single post from a celebrity with a big following endorsing a product can led to a big increase in sales.  Using a well-known face such as an actor or sports personality can also attract a whole new demographic of people who may not previously have known about a product or considered it desirable.
  • Builds brand personality/credibility – a celebrity through their profile and networks can help to make a product cool, the brand seeing a considerable increase in its social standing and sales. For some customers celebrity endorsement is a sign that that a product is better than its competitors or its claims are more trustworthy.
  • Boosts company profits – having a well-known celebrity endorse a product closely associated with them can see a huge increase in sales – the chef Jamie Oliver helped to boost sales of frozen food by over £250m

Cons

  • Celebrities have feet of clay – a very close association with a celebrity who becomes embroiled in scandal or falls from grace can not only be damaging to the brand but can also severely impact sales – the second hand car company ‘We Buy Any Car’ took drastic steps to remove all traces of its partnership with Philip Schofield after he was sacked from ITV, a move which cost them a lot of money.
  • Celebrity endorsements are expensive – having a well-known face to promote your brand can be eye-wateringly expensive. According to reports Schofield was paid £1million a year to front the used car buying service’s advertising, although this pales into insignificance in comparison to the £1billion paid to the footballer Lionel Messi since 2017 to promote Adidas.
  • Celebrities can suffer from over exposure – given that marketing contracts can be very lucrative, it’s not unusual for celebrities to endorse multiple brands at once, leading to questions about overexposure, credibility, and value for money. If public opinion perceives that a celebrity has just jumped on the bandwagon for a product or their advert is shown too many times, sales can fall instead of increasing over time.

Any celebrity endorsement, from a major star to a local personality, needs to be part of a proper business marketing strategy. BCU’s School of Media provides a consultancy service on all aspects of product endorsement and our Help to Grow course can provide strategic advice on the most cost-effective way to market your company.

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