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Over $50 billion is invested globally in celebrity endorsement sponsorships. And for good reason: consumers buy into celebrities and the products they pitch. As reported by Nielsen research, people who follow celebrities are four times more likely to follow a brand on social media endorsed by that celebrity. And following a brand leads to social engagement, which is a tremendous source of word-of-mouth marketing.
It’s true that celebrity endorsements can cut through the clutter and provide brands with the power to inspire, entertain and enlighten across multiple channel experiences. But it’s also true that celebrity endorsements can create inherently unstable relationships with brands. Although celebrities show up in 15% of U.S. ads per research firm Millward Brown, the association between the talent and the brand can be negatively impacted if consumers believe the association is not genuine or if the celebrity is in the news for the wrong reasons.
Blogging Out Loud takes a look at three of our favorite celeb-brand match-ups and three that left us scratching our heads:
The Best: Marukan Rice Vinegar and Brian Tsao, Executive Chef at Mira Sushi & Izakawa
Brian Tsao is the Executive Chef at New York trendy restaurant Mira Sushi & Izakawa, and the winner of the Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay” show in 2014. Marukan Rice Vinegar partnered with this rising star in the world of Asian cuisine. Executive Chef Tsao is well respected both as an innovative chef and as a skilled restaurateur. His background and reputation provided the Marukan brand credibility in its communications to restaurant industry professionals.
The Worst: Kobe Bryant and Nutella
In the early 2000s, basketball legend Kobe Bryant’s perfect track record made him an apparent good choice for companies looking for a family-friendly face to endorse their products. And that face was ubiquitous: he was featured in ads for everything from McDonald’s to Coca-Cola to Spaulding to Nutella.
But in 2003, that all came crashing down when a 19-year-old woman accused Bryant of sexually assaulting her. Bryant, who was married, claimed the sex was consensual.
At the time, Nutella was heavily promoting “Kobe’s Favorite Spread” on all its packaging and in brand advertising. The tagline Nutella was so proud of quickly became a favorite joke fodder for late night talk show hosts. Nutella dropped Kobe, but more than a decade later people still remember “Kobe’s Favorite Spread”—for all the wrong reasons.
The Best: Ellen DeGeneres and Cover Girl
Beloved talk show host and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres projects an enthusiastic approach to life that perfectly represents CoverGirl’s accessible image. Ellen’s talk show fans are “classic middle America”—the precise audience CoverGirl wants to reach. Ellen has been a spokeswoman for CoverGirl cosmetics for several years now and it seems Ellen is staying put as one of the many faces of CoverGirl.
Worst: Pink and CoverGirl
Pink is a rock star in every sense of the word. She’s incredibly popular, she has loads of talent, and she’s a respected advocate for a variety of causes. So it makes sense that CoverGirl would partner with her, right?
Not so fast.
By choosing Pink for a short-lived series of ads, CoverGirl made a play to change up its brand image. But the target audience they hoped to draw in was already firmly in the camps of indy makeup brands like Smashbox and Benefit. Plus, CoverGirl’s tagline: “Easy, breezy, beautiful” just didn’t jibe with Pink’s punk-inspired style.
The Best: Brooke Shields and Calvin Klein
Most marketing experts agree that the success of the1981 ad that transformed jeans maker Calvin Klein into a worldwide must-have brand was all due to a young girl barely out of puberty: 15-year-old Brooke Shields. The stunningly beautiful actress had already starred in a number of movies that played up on her blossoming sexuality, most notably “Pretty Baby.” The marketers at Calvin Klein saw her as the perfect connection between the brand and youth market.
In the commercial, she looks up at the camera and says in a soft voice, “Wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” The ad sent shock waves through the country—and Calvin Klein jean sales went through the roof.
The Worst: Angelina Jolie and St. John’s Knits
In an effort to be more fashion-forward and appeal to a broader audience, St. John’s Knits hired Angelina Jolie to be their spokesperson. The $12 million deal faced intense and immediate backlash from St. John’s Knits devoted customers as Jolie “didn’t represent” the upscale brand to many of its consumer base. Sales stagnated over the course of the three year deal and the brand gave in and dropped the celebrity endorsement.
Share Your Thoughts!
We’re sure you have your own examples of the upside and downside of celebrity endorsements. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.