By Jessica Peine, Communication Management Intern
After losing iconic sports legends Muhammad Ali and Gordie Howe, conversations are swirling regarding the impact these individuals have had on the sports world and on society at large. While both men epitomized sportsmanship and were amazing role models in their respective sports, they also left an impact on our world of advertising, creating a dialogue around how athletes and other celebrities contribute to brand recognition.
Ali appeared in advertisements ranging from fish sticks, to d-CON Roach Spray, to an immunization PSA for the New York City Department of Health. Howe tended to keep a lower profile, doing occasional brand appearances and speaking engagements.
Companies, both big and small, often go back and forth about whether or not they should enlist a celebrity spokesperson; while there is no right answer, there are definitely some factors to consider when making that decision. On the positive end, celebrity spokespersons can help build awareness and even influence consumer purchases. A potential consumer might see an endorsement and think, “If Product X is good enough for him or her, then it’s good enough for me.” Celebrities, particularly ones that are rather recognizable, can offer the eye-catching edge you might need to get consumers to listen. A spokesperson could also help breathe new life into your brand, particularly if you are trying to reach a new demographic audience.
On the other end, though, there are some things to be wary of when choosing to use a celebrity spokesperson. One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that their reputation will become entangled with yours. I don’t need to go into specific examples, but we’ve all seen what happens when a celebrity goes off the rails and how that impacts a particular brand. Consumers are also pretty smart when it comes to endorsements; they aren’t going to believe that “Famously Beautiful & Filthy Rich Socialite X” uses “$5 Drug-Store Makeup Brand Y.” Your spokesperson has to be believable and genuine when they are representing your brand or product.
In order to achieve that genuineness, you might consider enlisting local politicians and change-makers who are viewed as down-to-earth and approachable. These individuals can help position you within your local markets and create opportunities for word-of-mouth advertising.
Celebrity endorsements can be a pretty big toss-up, and they certainly aren’t going to come cheap. National consumer product brands might find some success if they can create a genuine conversation (I really can’t emphasize that enough), but local brands might do better to put their time, energy and resources into other advertising outlets. Ultimately the choice is up to the company whether or not they want a celebrity to represent their brand and hopefully they have a Muhammed Ali rather than a Jared Fogle.