Celebrity Endorsers Influence Buying Decisions... Occasionally

Celebrity endorsements can move a brand from relative obscurity to greater awareness among consumers and increased buzz in the marketplace. But, which types of celebrities resonate as effective endorsers? According to a recent Adweek Media/Harris Poll, business leaders and professional athletes have the greatest impact. Not surprisingly, consumers view business leaders as the most persuasive (37% cited business leaders). Their expertise in business gives them a high level of credibility when endorsing products.

Enlisting professional athletes as product endorsers is a practice that spans several decades, and consumers still seem to be receptive to famous athletes hawking products (21% said athletes were most persuasive endorser). Acceptance of athlete endorsers was highest among persons ages 18-34, with 24% of that segment indicating athletes were the most persuasive type of endorser. In contrast, only 13% of the sample said athletes were the least persuasive endorser type, with business leaders being the only type with a lower percentage (11%).

Why do pro athletes go over well as product endorsers? First, many of them are well known. Their familiarity helps create awareness for the brands that hired them. Second, they are often admired by sports fans. The image people hold for Peyton Manning or Tiger Woods can influence the image held for brands endorsed by these premier athletes. Creation of a favorable brand image sets the stage for responses by consumers that could ultimately include product purchase.

Despite the warm and fuzzy feelings pro athletes might create, the reality is that endorsement advertising impacts a relatively small percentage of the overall audience. The Adweek/Harris study found that 80% of persons surveyed are not swayed by the presence of celebrities in ads. The implication of this finding is that marketers must understand celebrity endorsements are not the answer for every brand. We return to a basic tenet of marketing: know thy customer. Will your target market be persuaded in some way by your brand's association with a celebrity? Moreover, is it worth the investment required to sign a celebrity? If the answer to either question is "no," hiring a celebrity endorser is not the appropriate strategy.

Center for Media Research - "Endorsements Are a Mixed Bag"

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