February 19, 2015 Celebrity marketing accounts for a big chunk of the estimated $50 billion invested globally on corporate sponsorships and endorsements today, and with 15% of all U.S. ads now featuring celebrities, according to Millward Brown, the question is: can star power lift marketing objectives, and ultimately, sales?
Studies and expert opinions are mixed, with an increasing number of reports suggesting less than impressive results. One 11-month study by branding experts Derrick Daye and Brad VanAuken found that 90% of ads featuring celebrities didn’t boost the intended marketing objective more than 10%. In a review of 2015 Super Bowl ad effectiveness, advertising research consultancy Communicus found that average celebrity recognition was 78%, while average brand linkage (the ability to connect the commercial with the correct advertiser) was just 28% for the same set of ads.
Still, there’s no doubt that when a brand gets the equation right, celebrities can lift more than marketing objectives; the announcement of their endorsement alone can have an immediate impact on stock prices, and over time can lift sentiment, brand image, and sales.
Michael Jordan’s partnership with the Hanes franchise illustrates the positive potential of celebrity affiliation, while John Stamos may not have helped Dannon sell more Oikos yogurt, and in other cases (a certain pro golfer and sporting apparel brand) the net result can actually be negative. So is celebrity marketing effective? The answer seems to be: “it depends” – on the brand, and of course, the celebrity.
It may be risky business, but we’ve seen an uptick in campaigns featuring celebrities in 2015, with marketers betting on star recruits to shine through competitive categories from candy to car insurance.
For the re-launch of its M&M’s Crispy Milk Chocolate candies, which we reported on in our Reviving Classics article, Mars drafted multiple celebrities, including NASCAR racer Kyle Busch, pop singer Jessica Sanchez, and Vanessa Williams (the voice of the M&M’s “Ms. Brown” character), while Adidas Originals featured singer/rapper Pharrell Williams, former soccer pro David Beckham, singer/actress Rita Ora, and NBA player Damian Lillard in a 90-second TV ad.
Since then, celebrity partnerships have kept on coming, with announcements from: Coty, which signed an agreement with actor Scott Eastwood to be the new face of DAVIDOFF Cool Water fragrance in TV and print ads starting this summer; Esurance, which debuted a commercial featuring Lindsay Lohan and another starring Bryan Cranston as part of a TV and social media brand campaign called “Sorta You Isn’t You”; the Radiant Collection, from Procter & Gamble’s Tampax and Always brands, which extended its ongoing partnership with pop star Demi Lovato in print advertising, online activations, and public relations efforts; and TrueCar.com, which chose Owen Wilson to reach millennials in a TV, digital, social, and mobile media campaign.
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Contributed by Marilyn Mead, Joanna Saab