The Benefits And Risks Of Using Celebrities In Marketing

Having a celebrity as part of your marketing campaign can be a real game-changer for your brand. When executed successfully, a celebrity endorsement lets you leverage the fame and influence of celebrities, access built-in audiences and influence customer behaviour with powerful social proof. While the potential for success is huge, there are also risks you should be aware of, such as unpredictable, reputation-damaging behaviour. Here, we take a look at the strategic use of celebrities in marketing, including the advantages and potential pitfalls.

Why Brands Use Celebrities In Marketing 


Brand Elevation via Social Proof

When a celebrity is seen endorsing a brand, by sharing their own content featuring their products or appearing in promotional material, they add their own seal of approval. For example, if a famous athlete is seen using a particular brand of clothing or equipment, their fans and followers are more likely to choose that brand over others.


Boost Long-term Brand Awareness

Partnerships with celebrities can increase sales, but the real value lies in the long-term benefits. A well-placed celebrity endorsement can help to affirm that brand in the public consciousness for a long time. Look at the partnership forged back in 1984 when Nike took a chance on a rookie basketball player – Michael Jordan. Even though it was his first season, and he had never worn a Nike trainer before, Michael Jordan’s endorsement catapulted Nike from a specialist track running shoe maker to the creator of some of the most popular trainers of all time.


What Are The Benefits of Using Celebrities in Marketing?


Increased Trust and Credibility

People are more likely to trust a product if it is endorsed by a celebrity they are familiar with and like. This helps brands to take a shortcut through the time-consuming and arduous process of building trust with their audience and simply borrow some credibility from a well-known public figure.


The ‘Cool’ Factor

There is the undeniable fact that celebrities just make things seem cooler. Using celebrities who are popular and current at this moment as brand ambassadors can help brands seem more relevant and thus, more desirable. This approach is most effective when targeting younger demographics.


Opens Up New Markets

Many celebrities have diverse fan bases that encapsulate a wide range of demographics you might not expect. By having such a celebrity endorsing your product, you can gain access to these new markets.


Memorable Campaigns

Advertising campaigns featuring celebrities are more likely to stand out than those with no-name actors. Using a celebrity’s easily recognisable face and voice helps an advert stick in the minds of consumers, leading to more brand awareness.


How Celebrity Endorsement Helps In Brand Positioning


Historical Success

From Michael Jordan with Nike to George Clooney in those Nespresso adverts, celebrities have been used for decades as the face of successful marketing campaigns. Back in the 1880s, actress and socialite Lillie Langtry became the face of Pears Soap, making her the first celebrity to endorse a product. In the 1930s, Babe Ruth became the first athlete to accept sponsorship from a brand, in this case, Red Rock Cola. Since then, any brand worth its salt has its share of celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing campaigns.


The Power of Association

When brands have a celebrity for a brand ambassador, they can bask in the glow of their sparkling prestige and reputation, boosting the perception of their brand to one of quality and desirability. For example, Leonardo DiCaprio is a brand ambassador for the Swiss watch brand Tag Heuer. Not only is a handsome, A-list celebrity wearing their watches, but his reputation for environmental activism rubs off on Tag Heuer too, elevating their image in the minds of consumers. 


Amplification on Social Media

Celebrity marketing campaigns aren’t just on TV and magazines anymore. Celebrities’ presence on social media can offer their sponsored brands a much wider reach. In some cases, influencer marketing and traditional celebrity social cache can cross over, such as Kylie Jenner’s partnership with Adidas. The brand capitalised on her massive social media following as well as her status as a celebrity to reach a broader audience and tap into engaged communities.

The Risks of Using Celebrities in Marketing


Changes to their Public Image

There’s only one thing that draws more media attention than a celebrity doing good things, and that’s a celebrity doing something bad! Funnily enough, our first celebrity endorser, Lillie Langtry, did get dropped as a brand ambassador by Pears after engaging in what they deemed to be ‘lascivious behaviour’. She had multiple affairs with famous men, even becoming the mistress of Prince Albert Edward of Wales. Many celebrities have lost their lucrative brand sponsorships as a result of unpredictable behaviour, from Kanye West’s anti-semitic comments and general unhinged actions costing him his Adidas contract to Kate Moss losing multiple deals with Chanel, Burberry and H&M after her drug use was reported by tabloids. Here’s where brands have to make some hard choices – Nike and others lost money after terminating their contract with Tiger Woods after his extramarital affairs came to light.  You could argue that no publicity is bad publicity but these issues have cost brands significant amounts of investment so consider your celebrity choices carefully.


Brands Becoming Overshadowed

Sometimes, the fame and personality of a celebrity can be too strong, and end up overpowering the identity of the brand. The audience may remember the celebrity but not the product, which is not ideal. This can happen when the brand and celebrities’ values and image don’t align well, and people don’t connect the two in their minds. Imagine Kim Kardashian endorsing a range of power tools! It’s just not something you would associate with her in a million years, so such a partnership would make no sense.


Celebrity Overexposure

If a celebrity endorses too many different brands and products, their effectiveness as a brand ambassador can be diluted. They will also lose some credibility and the power of their social proof if they seem to be endorsing anything and everything. Brands can avoid this by being more selective when choosing a celebrity to promote their products, and diversifying their marketing strategy to not solely rely on celebrity endorsements.


How To Choose The Right Celebrity To Promote Your Brand


Who Does the Audience Like?

To return to the baffling idea of Kim Kardashian promoting power tools, you need to look to the audience of your brand to see who they would resonate with. Look beyond popularity levels to find out what famous people share the same values and interests as the target audience.


Who Represents the Brand’s Values?

The brand’s ambassador should be a celebrity who embodies the core characteristics that the brand wants to be seen to have, such as luxury, reliability, innovation, or something else. When the values of the celebrity and the brand are not aligned well, this can be a recipe for disaster.


Budget Considerations

It would be nice to have a pool of A-list celebrities to pick your ideal brand ambassador from, but it can cost some serious money, and the cost needs to be justified. Assess the potential ROI of such a deal before pursuing endorsements from celebrities, and consider using micro-influencers (those with a social media following of 1000 – 10,000) for a more modest dip into the world of celebrity partnerships. Influencer marketing can be more beneficial than a celebrity in some cases, as they can help you access very niche audiences and their endorsement of your brand may be seen as more sincere.


Using celebrities in marketing can offer great payoffs, but this strategy does come with its fair share of risks too. For a successful celebrity-led marketing campaign, it’s important to bear the brand’s mission, vision and values in mind at all times, and stay agile enough to respond to any changes in the celebrities’ public perception.


Do you need help with your marketing strategy? Our expert team is on standby to help you. Get in touch now to find out how we can revolutionise your marketing strategy and get results.

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