Talent, Looks or Brains? New Zealand Advertising Practitioners’ Views on Celebrity and Athlete Endorsers Jan Charbonneau and Ron Garland
“They add a whole heap of value to the communication … the bigger the personality the better.” (New Zealand advertising practitioner) The established practice of using celebrities and professional athletes as endorsers shows no sign of abating. While a substantial body of literature exists researching effective celebrity and athlete endorser characteristics, little research has been conducted from the advertising practitioner perspective. This research investigating New Zealand advertising agencies found they use celebrities/athletes primarily to achieve ‘cut through’ and believe their use is generally effective provided there is a tight fit between celebrity/athlete, brand and message. This study confirmed previous practitioner research concerning selection factors but found that priority given to each factor varies with brand, target audience and campaign objectives. Interestingly, for New Zealand practitioners, the risk of negative publicity and hiring costs were the most important factors considered. Keywords : Advertising, Celebrity, Athletes, Endorsement
Celebrity endorsers, including professional athletes, provide several important benefits over unknown endorsers. Celebrities break through media clutter and hold viewers’ attention (Dyson & Turco 1998, Erdogan & Baker 1999). This is especially true for athletes at the peak of their performance and media/consumer visibility (Shilbury, Quick & Westerbeek 1998). They contribute to brand name recognition, create positive associations transferring qualities such as physical appeal and likeability, and assist in the deve lopment of distinct and credible brand personalities (Kamins 1989, Ohanian 1990). Athletes provide particularly compelling testimonials for products that have contributed to their sporting performance and success (Dyson & Turco 1997, Stone, Joseph & Jones 2003). Research findings however are equivocal concerning whether consumers are more likely to purchase goods and services endorsed by celebrities (Agrawal & Kamakura 1995, Dyson & Turco 1998, Erdogan & Kitchen 1998). Using celebrities and athletes is not without risk. With the increased attention comes the risk of overshadowing the brand (Erdogan & Kitchen 1998). Should an endorser become embroiled in controversy, not only corporate embarrassment but potentially negative attitudes to the brand can result (Veltri & Long 1998, Till & Shimp 1998, Till 2001, Pornpitakpan 2003). Anecdotally, ill- fated celebrity/athlete endorsement deals such as footballer OJ Simpson and Hertz Car Rentals, Canadian Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson and Toshiba or Michael Jackson and Pepsi appear cases in point. Celebrities endorsing multiple products risk overexposure, lessening the impact and distinctiveness of each product relationship as well as diminishing consumer perceptions of celebrity credibility and likeability (Tripp, Jensen & Carlson 1994, Dyson & Turco 1998, Erdogan & Kitchen 1998, James & Ryan 2001, Garland & Ferkins 2002). When Jesse Owens
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Marketing Bulletin, 2005, 16, Article 3
ran in Adidas track shoes in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he did so because they represented a technological advance in footwear. Today’s consumers realise that endorsements are income generators for celebrities and athletes – that they are paid to be walking billboards and as such are likely to endorse a wide range of products. For example, in 2002, Tiger Woods made a reported $70 million US endorsing American Express, Rolex, Nike, Titleist, Target, Buick and Tag Heuer, amongst others (Advertising Age, 2003). Celebrity images are not static and there is the ever-present risk of image change or loss of public favour. Athletes present the additional risk of injury, which reduces...