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Impact of Celebrity

Endorsements on

Overall Brand

{Searching for the Right Match}


1. Itroduction 2

2. Synopsis 4

3. Defining the Meaning & Scope of the Topic 7

4. Important Celebrity Attributes 9

5. The Need for Celebrity Endorsement 10

6. Scope of Celebrity Endorsement 11

7. Impact of Celebrity Endorsement 13

8. The Process of Celebrity Endorsement 18

9. Risks Associated With Celeb. Endorsement 21

10. Celebrity Selection 22

11. Celebrity Endorsement: The Issues Involved 24

12. Framework of Endorsement Program 26

13. Why Celebrity Endorsement Fails? 32

14. Kinds of Celebrity-hood 40


16. Cases Analysis Using the Framework 55

17. Conclusion 58

18. References 67


The modern world of marketing communication has become colorful and inundated with advertisements, and it is hard to get noticed. It is an uphill task for the designer of an advertising campaign to differentiate itself from others and attract viewers’ attention.

Everyday consumers are exposed to thousands of voices and images in magazines, newspapers, and on billboards, websites, radio and television. Every brand attempts to steal at least a fraction of an unsuspecting person’s time to inform him or her of the amazing and different attributes of the product at hand. The challenge of the marketer is to find a hook that will hold the subject’s attention.In helping to achieve this, use of celebrity endorsers is a widely used marcom strategy.

In this jet age, people tend to ignore all commercials and advertisements while flipping through the magazines and newspapers or viewing TV. But even then, the glamour of a celebrity seldom goes unnoticed. Thus, celebrity endorsement in advertisement and its impact on the overall brand is of great significance. In this process, the companies hire celebrities from a particular field to feature in its advertisement campaigns. The promotional features and images of the product are matched with the celebrity image, which tends to persuade a consumer to fix up his choice from a plethora of brands. Although this sounds pretty simple, but the design of such campaigns and the subsequent success in achieving the desired result calls for an in-depth understanding of the product, the brand objective, choice of a celebrity, associating the celebrity with the brand, and a framework for measuring the effectiveness.

Companies invest large sums of money to align their brands and themselves with endorsers. Such endorsers are seen as dynamic with both attractive and likeable qualities and companies plan that these qualities are transferred to products via marcom activities. Furthermore, because of their fame, celebrities serve not only to create and maintain attention but also to achieve high recall rates for marcom messages in today’s highly cluttered environments.

Aristotle said, “Beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of introduction.” This could aptly summarize why innumerable products are endorsed by celebrities, with or without a significant need or benefit from the same.

Similarly every product has an image. The consumer tries to consume a brand which has the maximum fit with his/her own personality/image. The celebrity endorser fits in between these two interactions, where he tries to bring the image of the product closer to the expectation of the consumer, by transferring some of the cultural meanings residing in his image to the product.

“The model of Celebrity Endorsement”, is essentially based on the theoretical framework of Classical Conditioning given by Pavlov.

Upfront, this seems like a very effective weapon in mature and saturated markets, which differentiates products from those of the competitors by clearing the clutter and reaching the consumer. But is the impact so significant, or are the celebrities themselves adding to the clutter?

Through this paper we primarily try to evaluate the impact of any celebrity endorsement campaign on the brand by analyzing it through our Impact-Analysis Framework consisting of - brand, consumer and the celebrity as well as the interactions between the Consumer - Endorser and Brand - Endorser.

And finally, is the investment in a celebrity commensurate to the returns earned by the company?

If the world were full of all wise men and all wise women; we would have never heard of a term called “advertisement”. And then good products would have found the right customers and grown to prosperity. Firms would have worked out a mathematical formula to sell and succeed. But the buying process isn’t rational; and so is this world.

Indians are die-hard movie and sport buffs; and this aspect of the consumers has invited the concept of “Celebrity Endorsement” to the world of advertisement. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the role of Celebrity Endorsement in the process of brand-building by taking appropriate examples from the advertising landscape.


Successful branding programs are based on the concept of singularity. The objective is to create in the mind of the prospect the perception that there is no other product on the market quite like your product.”

- Al Ries & Laura Ries

Indian advertising started with the hawkers who used to call out their wares right from the days when cities and markets first began. With this evolved a strategy that tried to benefit from the emotional attachment of the admirers or the fans of the celebrities; in the form of celebrity endorsement.

Paper tries to understand the process of consumer psychology and impact of celebrity endorsement on the overall process of brand building. The in-depth study of various models brings to light the complexities pertaining to celebrity endorsement. A symbiotic model has been proposed to define: how to make celebrity endorsement a win-win situation for both the brand and the brand-endorser. “Brand” is the most valuable asset of any firm. Any thoughtless adventure can be like the Sword of Damocles. It’s the “strong idea” of promotion which is a more strategic means of brand-building; which can be an economical alternative over celebrity endorsement.

It doesn’t matter how new an idea is; what matters is how new it becomes.”

- Elias Canetti

If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language in which they think.”

- David Ogilvy

This paper rifles through the concept of celebrity endorsement and provides insights on what it is and how the increasing number of endorsements, throw a valid question to the consumers. Is there a science behind the choice of these endorsers or is it just by the popularity measurement? What are the reasons which lead to impact of celebrity endorsement on brands?

Through research and analysis, this paper emerges with a 14-point model which can be used as blue-print criteria and can be used by brand managers for selecting celebrities, and capitalizes the celebrity resource through 360 degree brand communication since our research proposes it as the foundation brick of the impact of celebrity endorsement. Our study reveals that the impact of celebrity endorsement is proportional to the 14 factors discussed in the model.

The success of a brand through celebrity endorsement is a cumulative of the 14 attributes. Greater the score of the below greater are the chances of getting close to the desired impact.

The general belief among advertisers is that brand communication messages delivered by celebrities and famous personalities generate a higher appeal, attention and recall than those executed by non-celebrities. The quick message-reach and impact are all too essential in today’s highly competitive environment.

We put forward certain ideas like ‘positioning by association’, ‘diminishing celebrity utility’ and the Multiplier Effect which show the triangular relationship between the brand, the consumer and the celebrity.

Now, despite the potential benefits derived from celebrity endorsements, they increase a marketer’s risk manifolds and should be treated with full attention and aptitude. A brand should be cautious when employing celebrities to ensure promise believability and delivery of the intended effect. The growing importance of mythical characters as celebrities and their sway over the target segments are ample proof of public demand for icons to look up to. As the celebrities traverse from a mere commercial presence to public welfare message endorsements, a whole new dimension is added to this process and helps us in achieving a holistic view of the impact which celebrities generate in every sphere and segment through their well-versed endorsements.

Celebrities have also been in demand having succeeded in being effective by rising above the clutter & grabbing the attention and focus of the consumer. They also succeed in creating an aspiration in the minds of the consumer to acquire what their favorite celebrity endorses.

However, the above might be too simplistic a solution for multitudes of marketing problems in the real world. Hence to analyse how effective any Celebrity Endorsement campaign is, we need to look at the various factors which impact its success. Through this paper, we have developed an analytical structure called “Impact-Analysis Framework” comprising three main factors - Brand, Consumer, Endorser and the interaction between Brand - Endorser and Consumer-Endorser.

Further, we apply our framework to a series of celebrity campaigns to gauge the reasons for the success and failures of each to check the validity of our model. In our analysis, we also came across factors which have impacted campaigns in very specific terms and hence cannot be generalized; to elucidate the same, we have presented analysis of some of these unique cases which have been marked by diverse outcomes.

Defining the Meaning & Scope of the Topic

Branding & Celebrity Endorsement

Today, use of celebrities as part of marketing communication strategy is fairly common practice for major firms in supporting corporate or brand imagery.

What is a Brand?

Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, once said, “Our most valuable assets are our intangible assets.” The intangible asset he was referring to is a brand. The Dictionary of Business & Management defines a brand as: “a name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify goods or services of one seller or a group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitor”.

Definition of Celebrities

Celebrities are people who enjoy specific public recognition by a large number of certain groups of people. They have some characteristic attributes like attractiveness, extraordinary lifestyle or special skills that are not commonly observed. Thus, it can be said that within a society, celebrities generally differ from the common people and enjoy a high degree of public awareness.

According to Friedman and Friedman, a “celebrity endorser is an individual who is known by the public for his or her achievements in areas other than that of the product class endorsed”. Compared to other endorser types, famous people always attach a greater degree of attention, recall and loyalty.

According to Melissa St. James, a doctoral fellow and marketing instructor at The George Washington University, “Studies show that using celebrities can increase consumers’ awareness of the ad, capture [their] attention and make ads more memorable.”

In this age of intense competition, where capturing a position in the consumers’ mind space is extremely tough, celebrity endorsements give an extra edge to the companies for holding the viewers’ attention. Celebrities can catalyze brand acceptance and provide the enormous momentum that brands require by endorsing the intrinsic value to the brand.

“The term Celebrity refers to an individual who is known to the public (actor, sports figure, entertainer, etc.) for his or her achievements in areas other than that of the product class endorsed” (Friedman and Friedman, 1979). This is true for classic forms of celebrities.

Like actors (e.g., Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai,, Preity Zinta, Aamir Khan and Pierce Brosnan).

Models (e.g., Mallaika Arora, Milind Soman, Naomi Campbell, etc),

Television Personalities (Husain, Smriti Irani),

Sports figures (e.g., Sachin Tendulkar, Sania Mirza, Anna Kournikova, Michael Schumacher, Tiger Woods, etc),

Entertainers (e.g., Cyrus Broacha, Oprah Winfrey,),

And pop-stars (e.g., Madonna, Shakira).

But also for less obvious groups like businessmen (e.g., Vijay Mallya, Bill Gates) or politicians.Clebrities appear in public in different ways. First, they appear in public when fulfilling their profession, e.g., Vishwanathan Anand, who plays chess in front of an audience. Furthermore, celebrities appear in public by attending special celebrity events, e.g., award ceremonies, inaugurations or world premieres of movies. In addition, they are present in news, fashion magazines, and tabloids, which provide second source information on events and the ‘private life’ of celebrities through mass-media channels (e.g., Smriti Irani being regularly featured in various publications). Last but not least, celebrities act as spokes-people in advertising to promote products and services, which is referred to celebrity endorsement.

Important Celebrity Attributes

While selecting a celebrity as endorser, the company has to decide the promotional objective of the brand and how far the celebrity image matches with it. The selection is in fact a collaboration, from which both the company and the celebrity gains.

The most important attribute for a celebrity endorser is the trustworthiness. The target audience must trust that a celebrity carries a particular image and it must match with the product.

The second attribute in order of importance is likeability. The celebrity also must be accepted as a popular icon by a large cross section of the audience.

Similarity between the target audience and the celebrity is the third important attribute. A person well-known in a society can have greater impact than a celebrity of a different world. If the endorser and receiver have similar needs, goals, interests and lifestyles, the position advocated by the brand communication is better understood and received. Similarity is also used to create a situation where the consumer feels empathy for the person shown in the commercial. The bond of similarity between the endorser and the receiver increases the level of persuasiveness.

Apart from that, expertise is also believed to be another important attribute.

Definition of Celebrity Endorsement

According to Friedman & Friedman, a “celebrity endorser is an individual who is known by the public for his or her achievements in areas other than that of the product class endorsed.” So, in the Coco-Cola advertisement; actor Amir Khan is the celebrity endorser for the product or brand called Coke, and this process is referred to as Celebrity Endorsement. Celebrities might endorse as a brand ambassador or a brand face.

Difference between Brand Ambassador & Brand Face

A Brand Ambassador would be one who is not only a spokesperson for the brand or is just appearing as a testimonial for the brand’s benefits. He/she is an integral part of the brand persona and helps to build an emotionale, which goes beyond just appearing on TV commercials.

He takes up the cause of a Brand Champion and is associated with every aspect related with the brand. What is more, there is a significant difference between making just an endorsement for say, a shampoo or an automobile, and being that brand’s alter ego. Both parties take the latter far more seriously to the deal. So a brand ambassador would be involved in press releases, he/she would be actively participating in any sales promotion, sporting the Brand all the while. For example, Fardeen Khan is the brand ambassador for Provogue while he remains a brand face for Lux Body Wash.

On the other hand, a Brand Face would be the current celebrity who is just used as a tool to increase brand recall and is only appearing in the advertisement. It is usually seen that a brand face is a temporary contract and is very short term at times. An example would be Sona Chandi Chawanpryash using Sourav Ganguly for a while in its commercials. Brand faces are easily forgotten and fades away with the campaign’s end

The Need for Celebrity Endorsement

The charisma of the celebrities almost always entices people and their words are worshipped by a lot of people. Their influence also goes on the political front, where they are invited for political endorsement. Eg. Hema Malini for B.J.P. , Govinda for Congress , Amitabh Bachchan for S.P..When actor Shah Rukh Khan endorses Santro-Zip drive; the consumers are made to think that he is giving his opinion to go for this car. Similarly, actress Rani Mukherjee has turned the tables for Bata’s ladies footwear brand called Sundrop as sales increased by a whooping 500%.

Celebrity endorsements are impelled by virtue of the following motives: -

 Instant Brand Awareness and Recall

 Celebrity values define, and refresh the brand image

 Celebrity adds new dimensions to the brand image

 Instant credibility or aspiration PR coverage

 Lack of ideas

 Convincing clients

Why Companies Use Celebrities - The Celebrity Edge

Psychological Factors: Celebrities generally satisfy the 'esteem needs' of an individual. For example a movie actress is expected to possess a flawless skin and a blemish free face. Her fans want to know the secret of her beauty, so she becomes a natural endorser for beauty related products (cosmetics, soaps, powder).

 propping Up Awareness and Trust Levels: Rahul dravid - bob

To Communicate a Certain Message about the Company:

Sachin Tendulkar as brand ambassador gave it the desired facelift and image for the launch of 'Victor'

 Value for Money:

 To Position their Brand Distinctively: Lux worldwide has positioned itself as the 'soap the filmstars use'. From Leela Chitnis to Aishwarya Rai, all top actresses have modeled for Lux.

 Celebrity Standing for a Single Brand:Think Zakir Hussain and you are reminded of 'Wah Taj' Taj Mahal tea. Ditto with A. R. Rahman for Airtel.

Scope of Celebrity Endorsement

The use of testimonials by advertisers dates back to the 19th century when medicines were patented. Firms have been juxtaposing their brands and themselves with celebrity endorsers (e.g., athletes, actors) in the hope that celebrities may boost effectiveness of their marketing and/or corporate communication attempts for at least a century. One of the early example is Queen Victoria’s endorsement of Cadbury’s Cocoa (Sherman, 1985). It was not until the 1920s, however, that advertisers used famous people for product endorsements.

Actresses Joan Crawford, Clara Bow and Janet Gaynor were among the first celebrities to promote products (Fox, 1984). At that time, the rationale given by advertising agencies for using celebrities was “the spirit of emulation” (Fox, 1984, p.90). About a decade ago, one in three television commercials used celebrities’ endorsements (Business Week, 1978), and today this advertising approach appeared to be on the increase across all media types (Sherman, 1985 and Levin, 1988). Friedman (1977) found that celebrities are featured in 15 percent of the prime-time television commercials. In the United States, it was reported that about 20% of all television commercials feature a famous person, and about 10% of the dollars spent on television advertising are used in celebrity endorsement advertisements (Advertising Age, 1987; Sherman, 1985). Thus, celebrity endorsement has become a prevalent form of advertising in United States and elsewhere.

Today, the use of celebrity advertising for companies has become a trend and a perceived winning formula of corporate image building and product marketing (Media, July-August 1997). This phenomenon is reflected by the recent market research findings that 8 out of 10 TV commercials scoring the highest recall are those with celebrities’ appearances .

Celebrity Endorsement in India

Phase 1: The Pioneering Phase (1950-1980)
this phase was characterized by: -
1. Limited channels of communication
2. Demand exceeded supply
3. Heavy regulation and governmental regulations
some bigger companies from their global experience introduced the concept of celebrity endorsement. HLL has used Hindi film stars to endorse their beauty soap Lux since the fifties.

Phase 2: The Growth Phase (1980-1990)
the introduction of television added a variable effective medium of communication. Indian stars going global with events like Asiads and World Cup victory. Vimal, Thums-Up, Gwalior and Dinesh are some of the other brands that used star-appeal in the early days of mass advertising. There was a spurt of advertising, featuring stars like Tabassum (Prestige Pressure-cooker), Jalal Agha (Pan Parag Pan-masaala), Kapil Dev (Palmolive Shaving Cream) and Sunil Gavaskar (Dinesh Suitings).

Phase 3: Globalisation
In highly competitive markets, the following realities about brand management exist: -
1. Product differentiating factors are duplicable and imitable.
2. All long existing and successful brands imbue their products with a meaning.

Impact of Celebrity Endorsement

The increasing number of endorsements throws a valid question to the consumers. Is there a science behind the choice of these endorsers or is it just by the popularity measurement? What are the reasons which lead to impact of celebrity endorsement on brands?

Through research and analysis, this paper develops a 14 point model, which can be used as a blueprint criterion which can be used by brand managers for selecting celebrities, and capitalizes the celebrity resource through 360 degree brand communication, since our research proposes it as the foundation brick of the impact of celebrity endorsement. Our study reveals that the impact of celebrity endorsement is proportional to the 14 factors discussed in the model.

The success of a brand through celebrity endorsement is a cumulative of the following 14 attributes. Greater the score of the below parameters, greater are the chances of getting close to the desired impact.

Fit with the Advertising Idea

One of the most successful celebrity endorsement campaigns which reflect the fit between the brand and the 360 degree advertising fit is Fardeen Khan and Provogue. Provogue’s positioning in the apparel market is of a young, active, party-going, attention-grabbing brand and so is Fardeen Khan. The conjunction between the two has been immensely impactful and brand managers have utilised this endorsement through 360 degree reinforcement.

Celebrity-Target Audience Match

Smriti Irani endorsing the WHO recommended ORS Campaign in India. Indian mothers can associate with Smriti Irani through the facets she projects on screen or in regular life which helps develop a connect with the target audience since mothers medicate their children with ORS.

Celebrity Values

Tabu endorsing Tetra Packed Milk, Shabana Azmi campaigning for AIDS Awareness, Amitabh Bachchan & Shahrukh Khan campaigning for Pulse Polio or Aishwarya Rai appearing in the Donate Eyes campaign are few examples, which reflect the transfer of celebrity values to the brand, creating an impact that generates recall.

Costs of Acquiring the Celebrity

Recently, a newspaper report showed how cola firms had gone beyond their advertising budgets to get the best celebrities. Small firms that use celebrities’ services run greater risks if they invest large amounts. Although nobody is willing to say exactly how much celebrities get paid, industry sources say Sachin Tendulkar’s price is believed to be between Rs. 2.0-2.5 crores per endorsement, and musician A. R. Rehman, who had signed up with AirTel, is believed to have picked up Rs. 1.75 crores. Film-star Hrithik Roshan was rumored to have picked up Rs. 2 crores for the Fly With Hrithik campaign to push Close-Up, and Shahrukh Khan’s rate seems to be between Rs. 2.5-3.0 crores. Aishwarya Rai apparently picks up Rs. 1.25 crores for an endorsement and the Indian cricket captain Saurav Ganguly is believed to get between Rs. 90 lakh to Rs. 1.5 crores, while film-star Aamir Khan apparently makes Rs. 1.5 crores per endorsement.

Celebrity Regional Appeal Factors

R. Madhavan endorsing Pepsi in southern India or Sachin Tendulkar endorsing in India are few examples of how celebrities are chosen to reach out to target audiences for brands in regional markets.

Celebrity-Product Match

Cyrus Broacha is the brand ambassador for MTV since both the celebrity and the brand are considered as friendly, young, mood-boosting, humorous and outspoken. MTV’s brand personality overlaps Cyrus Broacha’s image as a brand.

Some more examples of compatible celebrity product match in which celebrity brand attributes get transferred to the brand and increases the brand equity is of Govinda & Navratan Tel, Aishwarya Rai & Nakshatra, etc.

Celebrity Controversy Risk

The perfect example here is of Salman Khan and the controversy in which he crushed a man to death with his Pajero when he was driving under the influence of alcohol. Also, any act on the part of the endorser that gives him a negative image among the audience and goes on to affect the brands endorsed. The brand, in most instances, takes a bashing.

Celebrity Popularity

Celebrity Brand association like Garnier endorsed Tara Sharma & Simone Singh, Agni Diamonds & Riama Sen don’t get much brand recall, and even if they do, its difficult to attribute it to the celebrities’ endorsing the brand.On the other hand, HPCL has had increased popularity and share of voice due to the endorsement of the brand through Sania Mirza.

Celebrity Availability

In case of various brands, there are situations in which they prefer to go without a brand face, since there is no brand-fit between the celebrities available and the brand. Also, due to multiple endorsements by certain celebrities, brands refuse to adopt celebrity endorsement since they fear dilution of the brand image.

Celebrity Physical Attractiveness

John Abraham endorsing Wrangler and Timex Sunglasses are some examples which portray the celebrities’ physical attractiveness that helps create an impact.

Celebrity Credibility

The most important aspect and reason for celebrity endorsement is credibility. In a research carried out among 43 ad agencies and companies, most experts believed that the most important dimensions of credibility are trustworthiness and prowess or expertise with regard to the recommended product or service. One of the most obvious reasons of Amitabh Bachchan endorsing plethora of brands is the credibility of the celebrity and his recognition across consumers.

To site one of the most successful campaigns in which the celebrity’s credibility has had an indelible impact on the brand and has saved the brand is of Cadbury’s. After the worm controversy, Amitabh Bachchan’s credibility infused into the brand through the campaign, helping it to get back on track. The campaign has won an award for the same.

Multiple Endorsements

Not many people can remember all the brands that a celebrity endorses and the chances of losing brand recall increases if the celebrity endorses multiple brands. For example, in case of Sachin Tendulkar people recall Pepsi, TVS Victor and MRF, but might not remember brands like Britannia and Fiat. Similarly, for Amitabh Bachchan, consumers remember ICICI, Pepsi, Parker Pens, Pulse Polio and BPL. They might get confused in the endorsement of Nerolac or Asian Paints. Thus, for multiple endorsements where the same celebrity endorses several brands, it boils down to the strength of the brand and the advertising content.

Whether Celebrity is a Brand User

Various celebrities endorse NGOs and social causes since they believe in the social message that they need to convey to the audience. One of the most successful campaigns has been executed by PETA in which celebrities like Shilpa Shetty, Amisha Patel, Yana Gupta, Sheetal Malhar, Mahima Choudhary claimed to believe in PETA’s philosophy, and thereby endorse the brand.

Impact Regions of Celebrity Endorsement:

The illustrations below explain the same: -

Source: Adopted from TOM et al, 1992.

The Process of Celebrity Endorsement

The process of celebrity endorsement is more of meaning translation & meaning application. A deeper insight into this complex process is provided by the following theory.

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