Celebrity product endorsements can work as long as the celebrity does not outshine the product being endorsed.
Companies selling a product commercially use celebrity spokespersons because they work.
The tacit approval of a product by a well-known athlete, actor or other public figure gives a product a step up against competitors, whether the consumer knows the endorsement is having an effect on them and their purchasing decisions.
But companies must be careful about the celebrity they use to endorse their product. The ones with shady backgrounds or controversial public personas are easy to avoid; the ones to watch out for are the ones that are too famous to help.
Those celebrities who carry so much Q-rating weight can cause what industry people call “the vampire effect’’, pulling notice away from the product and onto themselves.
According to Forbes magazine, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is set to earn $12 million 2015 from endorsements of products as varied as Reebok shoes, Buick automobiles, Nationwide Insurance, and DirecTV. Actors often serve as voices of authority in product endorsements, while actresses often make connections with beauty products and that connection produces ad campaigns that run for years.
But, according to Rice University marketing professor Utpal Dholakia, writing for Phycology Today, there is the “overshadowing effect’’ in celebrity endorsements where consumers rem3ember the commercial because of who is in it, but fail to remember the product being endorsed.
Dholakia quotes advertising expert Robin Evans, who names the effect:
“The use of celebrities, if they don’t have a distinct and specific relationship to the product they are advertising, tends to produce the ‘vampire effect’; they suck the life-blood of the product dry (and) the audience remembers the celebrity but not the product.’”
According to University of Hamburg researchers, a celebrity spokesperson can reduce the ability of the consumer to remember the product being advertised. In an experiment with 1,000 women who use hair color products regularly, the researchers presented two print ads for six seconds each, one with model Cindy Crawford in the ad and one without. The copy was identical in the two ads.
In two different response programs, the consumer was more likely to remember the product from the ad without Crawford in it. In unaided recall, when the consumers were asked to write the name of the brand in an open-ended question, the difference was 21 percent with Crawford in the ad to 26 percent without Crawford. In aided recall, in which they were given a set of possible choices, the percentages were 35 percent with Crawford to 44 percent without.
The researchers said similar percentages were reported in other types of products and celebrities, studying both genders.
In the Psychology Today article, Dholakia offered three pieces of advice to avoid “vampire effect’ celebrity branding:
Play the Match Game: This is why athlete endorsements of athletic wear works so well. There is an assumption that the athletic gear will match the high performance of the athletes endorsing the product. With that match made, the athlete and the product are paired so that the fame of the athlete does not reach beyond the appeal of the product. Care must be taken when athletes endorse something other than athletic material, with Peyton Manning being the best example of an athlete whose brand can exceed his area of expertise professionally. Non-athlete celebrities are harder to match to products.
Go with the Low Risk Celebrity: Some celebrities build their popularity by being in the spotlight all of the time, including in their private lives. Others are quiet, stay-at-home celebrities. Companies have to balance their need for a spotlight celebrity with the threat that the celebrity will become well-known for something that does not help sell the product.
Long-Term Commitments: Products benefit most when their celebrity endorser stays with the product, which shows the relationship was built on more than just a paycheck. Obviously, it helps when the celebrity maintains success in the field that made him famous. But a relationship between celebrity and product that runs for more than a year remains valuable through the highs and lows of the celebrity’s career.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.