Associating well-known personalities with companies to promote brands and products has been practiced for a number of centuries. Josiah Wedgwood, a famous 18th century British potter, capitalized on the fact that his products were being used by Queen Charlotte by promoting his business as "Potter to Her Majesty" (IPmetrics, 2011). Today, the use of popular celebrities in advertising is widespread with investments estimated at $50 billion a year spent globally on corporate sponsorships and endorsements with a majority spent on sports marketing. U.S. celebrities are featured in over 15% of today's advertisements (Crutchfield, 2011). With consumers' temperaments changing in a rapidly changing technological world, what are the benefits and drawbacks when considering whether to use celebrity to promote a company's image and brands?
Recent research studies have investigated the pros and cons for using celebrities in advertising, with some studies endorsing the use while others predict its demise. The public receives over 3,000 media images per day; however, the subconscious absorbs little more than 150 images and roughly 30 of those reach the conscious mind. The challenge of marketing is to grab the target consumer's attention, change or modify the consumer's attitude toward the brand/product, challenge preconceived notions and spark greater product sales. The use of celebrity advertisements is to cut through the advertising clutter, putting a (celebrity) face to a (product) name so consumers are more likely to remember it (Crutchfield, 2011). This trend of using a well-known celebrity, with a recognizable face, has been perceived to be a winning, tried-and-true formula to build corporate image and product marketing. Basically, it appeals to the consumer's desire of social standing; people want to wear the "right" clothes, drink the "right" beverages and use the "right" fragrances (Khatri, 2006). Using celebrities in advertising generates a lot of publicity and provides a higher degree of appeal, attention and possibly message recall (IPmetrics, 2011). The advertising is predicated on the concept that consumer's believe "if the celebrity/athlete/star uses the product then it must be good, so I will purchase it too" (Sikka & Hari, 2010). It amounts to an investment that sells a piece of the dream with immediate and long-term profits. In recent studies of hundreds of endorsements, the sales of some brands increased by 20% and, in some instances, the company stock rose 25% the day the endorsement deal was announced. According to Dean Crutchfield, "celebrity endorsement is always worth investing in if you have the right person. It's an expensive but easy option for companies" (2011). Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey for Progressive, Michael Jordan for Nike and Betty White for Snickers are examples of the "right" person.