Is it worth it?
Celebrity endorsement is a bit like that. The concept raises more questions than it answers.
Review of celebrity endorsement is timely, given the fact that in 2006 below-the-line expenditure exceeded that of above-the-line outlays in Australia.
Included in the former subgroup are activities which centre on promotions, merchandising, the hosting of events, product sampling and, yes, celebrity endorsements. That is an issue which must rightly be addressed and countered by the mass media channels of television, radio, print and outdoor billboards, because of and their contribution to the status of celebrities.
Much of the evidence in support of celebrity endorsement is impressive. The use of Paris Hilton by John Singleton, his son and their boutique brewery in Sydney has established a new and growing market segment. “Blonde” beer has been embraced by countless boutique breweries throughout Australia.
The marketing professionals of leading brand names must be convinced. Each year they hand out significant funds to chosen celebrities. Take for instance, Ricky Ponting, the captain of the Australian Cricket Team. His annual income from endorsements exceeds his reported $800,000 salary by Cricket Australia by some 7 to 8 times. That must sound sweet coming off the willow!
Bjorn Borg, five times winner of the Wimbledon tennis crown was reputedly receipting some $10 million (Australian) per annum, 10 years after his retirement. No suggestion of tennis elbow there!
ROLL UP OR ROLL OVER
Detractors of the concept often focus on the difficulty of quantifying the benefits and direct economic returns.
However, that does not take into consideration the many different applications of celebrity endorsement. Foremost among the more subtle uses is product placement, popular in movies and some lifestyle television programs.
James Bond did wonders for the image and sales of Ashton Martin motor vehicles. “Big Brother” telecasts feature conspicuous use of the products of sponsors and program advertisers.
In such instances the nuances of personal images and lifestyles are more influential and effective than the detailing of product features, advantages and benefits.
Fashion designers appear to have an increasingly balanced, objective and detached appreciation of the use of celebrities, as distinct from overt, direct endorsement.
“Fashion Week” events and new season fashion releases are experiencing mix fortunes at present as support from recognised, desirable and iconic brands is spasmodic, becoming increasingly an outcome of discerning selections for involvement and promotion.
The key determinant in fashion marketing decision making appears to be where and at which events will the television and still photograph cameras be. Hence, it may well be the red carpet rather than who walks the red carpet that will determine a presence.
Value is now measured by what is on the screen rather than what is on the “clothes hoist”, the celebrity.
Celebrity endorsement is most effectively used in products and services which contain high components of fashion, image and style. In short, subjective assessments.
Most consumers are generally reluctant to be pioneers or innovators. They seek out and are reassured by the imprimatur of someone whom they know, trust and admire.
Thus, the relative importance and high income capacity of identities like Elle MacPherson, Megan Gale and Sophie Hawkins.
Personalities and celebrities whose profiles are founded on knowledge and expertise can be and are able to leverage their public standings by endorsing specific products. Don Burke, the compere of the former television series “Burke’s Backyard” was the cornerstone of a mass media campaign which centred on a new plant. Against a background of drought throughout Australia and widespread water restrictions, the product achieved garden centre industry record sales.
Use of the ubiquitous Wiggles by Boost Juice Bars introduced new young consumers to the product range, together with a few Generation Y parents and an encouraging number from Generation X. It was good for the soul … and the bottom line, even on “Tiny Arse Tuesdays”, a highly successful promotional campaign conducted by the national franchise network.
CELEBRITIES BEHAVING BADLY
The sad case study of AFL footballer Ben Cousens sprinting from a motor vehicle to avoid a random breath test highlights the dangers of associating a brand, a product and service to the image, presence and behaviour of a celebrity.
The German marque which reportedly supplied the vehicle as part of a sponsorship deal, quickly withdrew the vehicle and the sponsorship. Very understandable. The public fall from grace of international super model Kate Moss is another example of the potential pitfalls associated with celebrities.
A contrasting consideration is the financial failure of an investment vehicle which featured in its advertising and marketing Olympic swimming legend Dawn Fraser and television actor Paul Cronin. Their high profile images were utilised to foster a sense of “peace-of-mind” among prospective investors.
The investors and the celebrities lost big time.
The selective use of celebrities can overcome widespread ignorance and apathy about a brand, a company, a product or service.
Endorsements can effect penetration into new markets, capture the attention, patronage and loyalties of those in differing segments and make a statement about certain features and attributes which establish perceived and possibly, real value.
However, prudence should be a virtue in the selection of a celebrity, ensuring that his or her image, lifestyle and values are consistent and complementary to those desired for that which is being endorsed.
Celebrities can and do attract attention, publicity and profile, good and bad. Hence, quality control is imperative for the product, the service and the celebrity.