ThinkOTB Agency

Celebrity endorsements: do they work?

May 16, 2019

Celebrities. They’re just better than us, aren’t they? They’ve got better hair, bodies that look like they were sculpted by Greek Gods and lead lifestyles that most of us couldn’t even imagine. What’s all this got to do with the price of milk we hear you ask? Well, it turns out that they’re also pretty good at selling things.

Just this week an Oscar-winning actor swapped the sprawling high-rises of Manhattan for an industrial estate in Bolton. We are of course talking about Robert De Niro; channelling his ability to take on any role, he traded his customary mob boss character to head up the Warburtons empire in their ‘Good Bagel’ campaign. This somewhat surprising collaboration is a stroke of genius from a brand in decline; De Niro’s fame and the humorous tone of the advert places them firmly in the minds of consumers in an overcrowded bread market.

The use of a household Hollywood name is the latest in a string of celebrity guest appearances used by Warburtons and will go some way to restoring their brand. But overall, do celebrity endorsements work? We’ve taken a look…

When it works, it really works

Beats by Dre

I know what you’re thinking, this company was set up by a celebrity! But it owes its success to celebrity endorsements. Jimmy Iovine, co-founder of Beats by Dre, recognised the power of celebrity influence and was relentless in his approach. Whenever he attended industry events or met with celebrities, he made sure to snap a photo of them wearing the product. Event organisers at the 2012 Olympics even had to enforce a ban on athletes wearing the headphones. They decided the brand was receiving too much free publicity. Jimmy Iovine exploited the fact that people naturally want to emulate celebrities and Beats became a must-have status symbol.

Calvin Klein’s go-to recipe

Time and time again, Calvin Klein have used celebrities modelling their underwear to boost sales. Everyone from Bieber to Beckham, the Kardashians to Kate Moss has donned the famous CK emblazoned waistband. This creates a belief among customers that they are buying a high-quality product – “if it’s good enough for Becks, it’s good enough for me!”

But celebrity endorsements don’t always work…

No accounting for the unpredictable nature of celebrities

Sometimes a celebrity endorsement doesn’t work out through no fault of the brand or the concept. Sometimes the sheer unpredictability of a celebrity takes centre stage. Take Ronaldinho – Coca Cola enlisted his services and compensated him with a multi-million-pound contract, but that couldn’t stop him publicly swigging from a Pepsi can at a press conference. His contract was swiftly terminated.

Nike riding high with Lance Armstrong

Nike must have thought they had hit the jackpot with Lance Armstrong. The most decorated athlete in his sport who had overcome cancer multiple times during his career – that’s one hell of a celebrity endorsement. Well, it was until he was found to be a systematic doping fraud! He was later stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. Again, this was completely out of Nike’s control, but the public perception of their brand inevitably took a hit.

A big name couldn’t save Pepsi…

Pepsi’s 2017 advert casting reality star Kendall Jenner as peacemaker at a rally is a great example of how celebrity endorsements can easily backfire. The ad adopted an inappropriately light-hearted tone to what was and still remains the heavy subject of racial tensions in the US. Jenner, a white model, arrived from a photoshoot and managed to quell tensions by offering an officer a can of Pepsi. The advert was way off the mark and trivialised the Black Lives Matter movement. Even the presence of one of the popular celebrities couldn’t save its fate.

Contrary to popular belief, a celebrity presence alone won’t make a product sell. It is however a good leg up. If brands steer clear of controversial or ill-thought out campaigns, having a celebrity (depending on their popularity) endorse a product will only result in increased sales figures. Celebrities bring unrivalled buying power and access to totally new demographics, but they won’t come cheap.

What do you think are the best and worst examples of celebrity endorsements? Do you think celebrity endorsements work and make any difference to sales? Tweet us @otbtweer with your thoughts!


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