The Pinocchio Factor in Consumer Attitudes Towards Celebrity Endorsement: Celebrity Endorsement, the Reebok Brand, and an Examination of a Recent Campaign

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Special Edition on Consumer Satisfaction – Global Perspective 97
John Temperley, Daniel Tangen
Celebrity endorsement is a widely used tactic in marketing and much research has been done on the selection and effect of celebrity endorsement. This article looks at consumer attitudes and associations towards celebrity endorsement, using the case of Reebok and their latest marketing campaign. An adapted version of metaphor elicitation was undertaken to find major constructs in a sample consisting of University students. Findings from this paper confirm the importance of selection perceived credibility of the spokesperson and image fit, the credibility of the setting, and the dangers of overshadowing and over-endorsement. An interesting finding regards what is referred to as the “Pinocchio factor”, the consumer perceiving the celebrity spokesperson as Pinocchio, where his nose grows when he is not telling the truth. The same “Pinocchio factor” also refers to the problems of controlling a celebrity spokesperson, one of the major flaws in using a celebrity spokesperson in marketing.

Key words: Celebrity endorsement, consumer attitudes, marketing campaigns, Pinocchio factor, celebrity spoke person, sport organisations.
Celebrity endorsement is a billion dollar industry today (Kambitsis et al., 2002) with companies signing deals with celebrities hoping that they can help them stand out from the clutter and give them a unique and relevant position in the mind of the consumer. According to Solomon (2002), the reasons for using celebrity endorsement involves its potential to create awareness, positive feelings towards their advertising and brand. Advertisement featuring celebrity endorsement is often also perceived to be entertaining. McCracken (1989) has called the use of celebrity endorsement advertising as “a ubiquitous feature of modern marketing”. In the USA a survey showed that in 1997 almost 25% of all ads featured a celebrity endorser (Stephens and Rice, 1998). In Japan almost 70% of all ads feature some kind of celebrity according to Kilburn (1998). Research has shown that celebrity endorsement can have an impact on the consumer’s attention, recall, evaluations and purchase intentions (Atkin and Block, 1993; Ohanian, 1991; Sherman, 1985; Belch and Belch, 1995 and 2001; Walker and Dubitsky, 1994; Kaikati, 1987). Although some of these arguments are being questioned by researchers looking into the effect of celebrity endorsement when it comes to actual behavior as well as attitude towards a specific behavior (Mehta, 1994; Ohanian, 1991).

Reebok and their latest marketing campaign
Reebok launched their latest and largest marketing campaign in a decade in 2005 “I am what I am”. According to Reebok press release for the launch of the campaign (, February 7th, 2005) the aim of the campaign is to celebrate individuality and authenticity. The campaign features a variety of celebrities from sports stars Allen Iverson, Kelly Holmes etc. to music and movie stars such as Jay-Z, 50Cent and Lucy Liu. It is a global campaign, but looking at Reebok’s sponsorship of American sports (basketball and American football) and given the celebrities being used it is perhaps quite US biased.

© John Temperley, Daniel Tangen, 2006
Innovative Marketing, Volume 2, Issue 3, 2006
Celebrity endorsement
Celebrity endorsement is today more and more seen as an integral part in an integrated marketing communication strategy. It should therefore be viewed in the context of the communication process as a whole. Hamish Pringle (2004) argues that there are 3 macro factors in the market today that largely influence the reason why celebrity endorsement can be a valid strategy: (1) increasing opportunity for interactivity between brands and their customers; (2) ‘era...
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