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Celebrity endorsements have always been a crucial part of the marketing mix – whether integrated into sponsorships or used as a stand-alone engagement platform. But now that consumers are bombarded with so many commercial messages throughout the day, they have become even more important as a way of cutting through the clutter. Here, Andy Fry explores some of the pros and cons of endorsement and offer a few tips on how to get the best out of your celebrity/talent partnerships.
The UK Sponsorship Awards will be celebrating the role of sponsorship endorsements for the first time in 2016. If you’d like to enter this exciting new category, please follow this link.
Added Legitimacy: Any company with enough money can sponsor a team or event. But celebrity endorsements seem to suggest that brands are entitled to be involved – thus enabling brands to activate their investment more effectively. This only works, however, if the celebrity relationship is authentic. Celebrities that promote your product but eat/drive/wear/use a rival brand in public will quickly become a PR problem. It also helps if they are genuinely high-profile. A sponsor that isn’t able to call on A List talent can look peripheral to consumers.
Top Tip – Celebrity endorsement can be very expensive, so make sure you know exactly what you get for your money when you sign up a celebrity. Name specific elements/expectations in the contract but, in addition, try to find someone who isn’t looking to just do the bare minimum. Analyse the celebrity’s existing commitments before signing a deal, to make sure they aren’t stretched too thin. If they are they are likely to be difficult to pin down and less enthusiastic about the work you request. Maybe consider setting up a business JV to incentivise your partner. Or, encourage loyalty to your brand by providing support to the celebrity in their own personal business ventures.
Rapid Recognition: Consumers tend not to notice brands very quickly, even if they are staring them in the face. However celebrities can trigger active attention for your brand. Because fans are interested in what their heroes do, they will take note of what they are endorsing and may become advocates.
Top Tip – Talk to the celebrity about ways in which they might be able to integrate your product into their lifestyle in a seamless way. Look at their diary and try to identify opportunities. Don’t make them cross by trying to force fit placement messages but try to be creative about opportunities. Think about competitions, interactions with fans etc – things that will benefit your brand but will also be seen by the celebrity as an opportunity to cement their own brand status
Brand Repositioning/New Positioning: Endorsements can be particularly useful for brands that want to reposition themselves or which are new to a sector or territory. In all of these scenarios, celebrities can create a surge of consumer interest that is sometimes amplified by PR coverage. For start up brands, celebrities can provide instant credibility.
Top Tip – Don’t be starry eyed. Just because you like a celebrity it doesn’t mean they are right for your brand. You need to apply the same analysis as you would in sponsorship selection.
Enhanced Reputation: One Harvard academic says that the announcement of a celebrity endorsement can have an immediate positive effect on stock price (see here http://edition.cnn.com/2009/OPINION/12/16/elberse.athlete.endorsements.tiger.woods/). There is something about signing a celebrity that reinforces that overall status of a brand. That said, the reverse can also be true – as brands have discovered with scandals surrounding Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong.
Top Tip – Celebrities are human – so consumers won’t mind if they fall short of perfection every now and then. But it is important to do some due diligence on your proposed partner – and ask yourself how your brand would be affected if the worst happened and your celebrity fell off their pedestal. Also monitor the relationship on an ongoing basis so it doesn’t become a habit. Check regularly to see if they are still aligned with your brand values and be prepared to intervene if they are not.
Media Activation: Celebrities have their own channels to market, which brands can piggyback (eg Facebook and Twitter followers). Do it right and you can get the celebrity’s fans promoting your product. There are two things to be careful of here, however. The first is to make sure the tone of their social media sites fit that of your brand. The second is to make sure the headline numbers are accurate. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that a lot of social media celebrity followers/friends are fake or haven’t actively engaged in a long time. Celebrities also help tackle the complex issue of media messaging in the digital era. Because they are often within content streams they can help brands reach elusive audiences. By a similar token, celebrities in TV ads can make the viewer’s hand pause over the remote, maybe choosing to watch an ad instead of skip.
Top Tip – Try to track your celebrity’s media exposure in advance of signing a deal. Develop a clear picture of how they use media and where the most often appear. Plan your endorsement activation against the backdrop of that data.
Grass Roots Support: Getting celebrities to turn up to grass roots events is a surefire way of getting ordinary punters to do so as well. This creates goodwill towards the brand - especially when celebrities really roll up their sleeves and get involved (ie no glum-faced signings or photo opportunities). It also helps generate plenty of media coverage in the local media.
Top Tip – Try to see if you can match up your CSR agenda with something that the celebrity is passionate about. If they are already doing some kind of community outreach work then see if you can weave that into your own brand priorities.