Advertising campaign that involves a well known

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celebrity endorsement
A form of brand or advertising campaign that involves a well known person using their fame to help promote a product or service. Manufacturers of perfumes and clothing are some of the most common business users of classic celebrity endorsement techniques, such as television ads and launch event appearances, in the marketing of their products.

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What Is Celebrity Marketing?

Famous people have always made excellent salesmen. Presenting a familiar face is one of the fastest and easiest ways for companies to create brand associations in the minds of consumers. When a widely loved actor or a heroic sports figure endorses a product, that product gains immediate credibility.

Celebrity marketing is a tactic featuring a famous person to offer an endorsement of a product. This famous person might be an actor, musician, athlete, ex-politician or a cartoon character. They do not need to be international superstars; they only need to be familiar to the target audience. For instance, a famous skateboarder might be unknown to the population at large, but beloved in the circle of young men that energy drinks are being marketed to.
A celebrity’s involvement can range from an explicit to an implicit endorsement of a product. Some celebrity marketing campaigns try to suggest that the star uses the product personally and enjoys it. Others simply involve the celebrity in the image of the brand, relying on the celebrity’s reputation rather than their outright endorsement to market a product.

Celebrity marketing has been used across all mediums. Print, television, radio, film and various forms of new media have all been effective outlets for celebrity endorsed products. The key is to match the right celebrity with the right product and place them both in the right ad campaign. If the combination is done well, it can lead to huge profits and an immediate change in the public perception of a company. If it is done poorly, it can ruin a brand overnight.

Successful and Unsuccessful Celebrity Marketing Campaigns


Michael Jordan for Hanes – The famous basketball star has endorsed Hanes brand clothing for over a decade. The admiration of the athlete lends an air of respectability and quality to the brand.

Britney Spears for Pepsi – The pop star was the celebrity face of a famous ad campaign in the late 90s. The singer's worldwide fame and popularity helped to connect Pepsi with a new group of young soda drinkers.

OJ Simpson for Hertz – The football star endorsed Hertz Rent-A-Car throughout the 1980s. When he was accused of murder in the early 90s, the advertiser quickly severed their relationship with him.

Tiger Woods for Nike – Woods had been an iconic spokesman for the brand for years. Following the public meltdown of his marriage, Woods appeared in a now famous spot featuring a voice over from his deceased father. The ad was extremely unpopular and is widely considered one of the least effective ads of all time.

Why use celebrities in advertisements?

The use of celebrities to sell a product is far from a new concept. In the mid 1800s, patent medicines earned the endorsements of queens and popes. Though the times have changed and the methods evolved, the same basic concepts that were true then prove effective today.

Marketing with celebrities provides opportunities to heighten the appeal of an advertisement and the product offered. When celebrities endorse a product, they transfer some of their own personal traits and values onto that product. Why is this? Research in “classical conditioning” helps to explain.

What is classical conditioning?

Classical conditioning is a psychological concept based on experiments conducted by Ivan Pavlov in the early 1900s. Pavlov was examining the salivation rates of dogs in his laboratory, and noticed that when the dogs saw food, they began to salivate more.

As the experiment progressed, Pavlov would ring a bell before dinner to condition the dogs to understand that a dinner bell meant food was on its way. Soon, Pavlov discovered that even if food wasn't present, when he rung the bell, salivation rates would increase.

Pavlov discovered that the dogs created an association between the ringing of the bell and food. While most advertisers aren't marketing their products to dogs exactly, this process of associative learning is important to understand why consumers create associations between celebrities and brands.

According to “Classical Conditioning and Celebrity Endorsers: An Examination of Belongingness and Resistance to Extinction,” by researchers Brian Till and others, there are three major psychological concepts considered when creating celebrity endorsement campaigns:

  • An Unconditioned Stimulus: A stimulus that automatically and naturally produces a response

  • A Conditioned Stimulus: A neutral stimulus that does not naturally produce a response

  • A Conditioned Response: A response created when pairing the unconditioned and conditioned stimuli together.

So, when a celebrity (unconditioned stimulus) endorses a brand (conditioned stimulus), it creates a (hopefully) positive response about that brand (conditioned response).

For example, when Jennifer Aniston endorses a perfume, people consider the qualities of Jennifer Aniston with the perfume. Aniston is considered one of the sexiest women on the planet, powerful, and likeable. If Aniston is endorsing a perfume, women (who view Aniston as a likeable, strong, attractive personality) in turn attribute those qualities to the perfume.

To help determine whether or not a celebrity would be a good fit for their brand, marketers take into account the “match-up hypothesis.”

Choosing the right celebrity for your campaign

When consumers view a commercial and believe that the celebrity endorser and the brand “match up,” recall of the campaign and impact of the advertisement increase. In this sense, if a celebrity endorser seems out of place in a campaign, the impact won't be nearly as powerful.

There are two major factors marketing officials consider when seeking celebrity endorsements for their products:

  • Credibility
    Expertise and Trustworthiness

  • Attractiveness
    Likeability, Familiarity, Beauty

For example, it would seem random to a consumer for an Olympic medalist, such as Michael Phelps to endorse a knife set. While Phelps is a household name and is familiar to most consumers, they don't trust his expertise in the kitchen as much as say, Chef Gordan Ramsey.

Some consumers might believe that simply throwing an attractive celebrity into a commercial is common sense advertising, and can only increase the sex appeal of a brand. But even though Phelps is in shape and well-liked, it still doesn't make sense for him to sell knives. Research into this area actually shows that factors like credibility overrules the attractiveness of a celebrity.

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