As social media and the real-time news cycle fostered by online media have given rise to a celebrity culture more pervasive than ever before, the lure of celebrity ambassadors has become even more fraught with potential success and peril. Celebrity misbehavior and high-profile mismatches have led many to declare sponsorship as either too risky for the rewards or ineffectual as a whole. However, in some industries, particularly the world of nonprofits, recent research has shown an uptick in the validity of celebrity voices supporting a cause. For example, a recent study conducted in the United States by Harris, a Nielsen Company, found that more than half of Americans (53 percent) believe celebrities can help make a difference by lending their support to a cause.
Experts are vastly divided about whether the ultimate gains of having a celebrity endorse your product outweigh the costs and possible pitfalls, but something everyone can agree upon is that they certainly can capture attention. The questions are whether celebrity endorsement is right for your brand or industry, how it will fit in your overall marketing plan, and how to find the best suited celebrity for your goals.
By tapping into the opinions of an online research panel you have cultivated amongst your consumers and brand aficionados, and reaching panelists taking part in communities hosted by leading organizations followed by your target audience, you can gather intelligence to determine whether or not celebrity sponsorship would be a valuable asset to your marketing strategy, as well as insight into how best to weave it into your plans.
Once you confirm the potential gains of such a pursuit, covering the following four considerations via further research will help you find the most appropriate fit for your campaign.
Ace Metrix, an analytics firm focused on advertising, recently conducted a study reviewing 12,000 ads and found that some of the poorest performing ads were those in which celebrities were seen as having a weak connection to the brand they were endorsing and were thus not necessarily believable as actual users of the products they were touting.
Ask your target audience questions regarding the type of celebrity that appeals to them and most aligns with your brand values. You could miss the mark or risk diluting your branding efforts by confusing consumers if you work with a celebrity who is incredibly popular, but has little to do with your industry or the values your company exemplifies. A strong, clear affinity between your company’s mission and the public persona of the celebrity you choose to represent you can make considerable strides in helping to strengthen the overall image of your brand. For example, this is one reason sports personalities can go a long way in raising the profile and status of the sporting goods they represent – there is a natural connection and affinity there.
Conduct research examining pop culture and marketing in your industry as a whole by querying and gaining insight from the wider public via survey sampling solutions. Are there several celebrities who seem to be everywhere? Do consumers come across them constantly throughout the day as they consume a variety of media? Choosing a celebrity who is already endorsing several different companies can lead to attention fatigue in your audience, undermine the earnestness of their endorsements, and cause you to compete with other affiliated companies for the celebrity’s full focus.
By pinpointing celebrities who either do not have a lot of endorsements on their plate or are rising stars yet to market their popularity, your connection can stand out in a crowded field and has a greater chance of giving you more return for your investment in the long term.
Speaking of the long term, it is also critical to assess the current and future status of any celebrity you are considering. Positive public perception and popularity can change quickly in today’s always-on media gauntlet, so undertaking research to fully understand where a certain celebrity stands in relation to their particular industry and to shed light on their potential can help you to choose someone who will be more than just a flash in the pan.
Social media persona
As celebrities amass followers and reach fans in increasingly personal and direct manners, the appeal of the celebrity endorsement has received an additional boost, but with a bite of warning. Social media can be both a bane and a boon to your celebrity endorsement. On one hand, celebrities who are very active in social media can have millions of followers and extensive reach across platforms, meaning your brand messaging has the potential to be spread instantly and directly to consumers far and wide. On the other hand, celebrities are under increased scrutiny and the minutiae of their lives are accessible in ways that were never possible before.
Unpleasant behavior in public can be captured and shared across social networks in seconds and reputations can be damaged irretrievably by an offensive tweet or ill-advised Facebook post going viral and causing a backlash. Your brand could then be affiliated with a scandal and image that you did not bargain for. Investigating the social media persona of your target celebrity can help you to determine the consistency, reliability, and appropriateness of the behavior across their various profiles. Additionally, polling your target audience can help you to understand the public perception of a particular celebrity’s social media identity. For example, if you are considering enlisting a celebrity to support a campaign against animal cruelty, it would be prudent to review their profiles and public perception to ascertain whether there are photos or knowledge of them having worn fur in public.
Overall, the success of a celebrity endorsement depends on how suited the endeavor is to your overall brand identity, how carefully you research the investment, the celebrity’s relevance to your brand and audience, and a pinch of good old fashioned good luck. Celebrities are, after all, only human.