Critically Evaluate Effect of Celebrity Endorsement on Brand Affinity

1 January 2017

To begin with, this essay discusses the positive effects of celebrity endorsement on brand affinity in terms of reassuring consumers of the product qualities and differentiating a brand from its competitors, using Nike-Golf and Canon case studies. Then, the essay discusses hazardous effects towards brand affinity when using celebrity endorsement with reference to the Tiger Woods’ infidelity and David Beckham multiple images case studies. These effects include celebrities’ images changing and loss of public recognition, and public controversy.

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Finally, there is a discussion and an emphasis on the celebrity endorsement’s rewards that lead to the higher level of brand affinity. In this essay, the term celebrity is defined as ‘people who enjoy public recognition and who often have distinctive attributes such as attractiveness and trustworthiness’ (McCracken, 1989; Silvera and Austad, 2004 cited in Kumar, 2010, p. 5). As Schlecht (2003, p. 3) states ‘…Celebrities generally differ from the social norm and enjoy a high degree of public awareness’. There could be eight classical forms of celebrity which include actors (e. g. Pierce Brosnan, Angelina Jolie Pritt), models (e. . Naomi Campbell, Gisele Buendchen), sports athletes (e. g. Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova, David Beckham), entertainers (e. g. Oprah Winfrey), singers (e. g. Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Jenifer Lopez, Black Eyed Peas), businesspeople (e. g. Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs), politicians (e. g. Barak Obama), and high-society people (e. g. Prince William, Victoria Beckham) (Schlecht, 2003, p. 3-4). Commonly, the brands have the distinct images and personalities that attract the consumers. The intense favorable emotional connection between consumers and the brands is taken to mean ‘brand affinity’ in this essay.

The brand affinity is not usually logical, but it is powerful. It encourages consumers to view a brand as the representative of a personal aspect of their persona (DeGabrielle, 2011). To illustrate, ACNielsen (2006) states that Armani is a brand that stands for well-understood attributes as high quality, sophistication and style – timeless values with global appeal. Consumers tend to buy Armani because they would like to be part of that shared identity. DeGabrielle (2011) suggests that ‘…[Consumers] perceive the brand as representing their values – or believe being associated with these brands makes them more “cool”…’.

For Armani, the utilization of David and Victoria Beckham- who are suggested to have a glamorous lifestyle- in Emporio Armani underwear could be an example of endorsing the brand stylish and sophisticated images affect consumers by celebrities. It has been believed that celebrity endorsement could be a marketing communication tool that helps strengthen brand affinity to the brands. The meaning movement from celebrities’ qualities towards the endorsed products could be illustrated in figure1. Source: www. clothingbrands24. com

Figure 1: Meaning Movement and Endorsement Process (Source: McCracken, 1989 cited in Kumar, 2010, p. 25) The first positive effect of celebrity endorsement on brand affinity is that celebrities could reassure product quality in consumers’ minds. Consumers are usually reluctant to believe in quality of product unless they have consumed it. For this reason, seeing celebrity reputation attached to the brands could mitigate some uncertainty and make it easier for the product to become the consumers’ brand choice (Elberse, 2009).

For example, before 1996, although Nike appeared to be well-respected as a successful brand in mainstream sports apparel especially in footwear, it was generally considered to be less likely to be successful in entering the golf category because it had limited experience in an elite category. However, Nike decided to utilize its area of expertise to build the equity in golf arena by collaborating with the athlete stars similar to the successful platform made with Michael Jordan.

Nike associated with world rising golf star at that time- Tiger Woods who appeared to be the symbol of fast success and endurance-and became an emerging successful brand in golf apparels, equipments, and accessories without actual proved qualities. The statistic in COMPUSTAT (cited in Farrell, et al. , 2000, p. 2) explains that after Nike signed a five-year contract worth approximately forty to sixty million dollars with Tiger Woods in 1996, the returns seemed to be instantaneous and lucrative.

The golf apparel and footwear sales of Nike was double the contract fee to approximately one-hundred twenty million dollars on the fiscal year ended on May 31, 1997. Furthermore, the sales of the entire company in the following quarter rose by fifty-five percent as a result of Tiger Woods’ endorsement (Farrell, et al. , 2000, p. 2). Nike has appeared to be an admirable brand in sports apparel- ranked number one for the industry (Fortune on CNN Money, 2011). Source: www. theblemish. com Another reward of celebrity endorsement on brand affinity is the perceived brand differentiation by consumers.

In this twenty-first century, there are thousands of brands worldwide. Consumers seem to be more selective and would prefer the brands with the outstanding images that help express their styles. For that reason, celebrity endorsement could convey distinctive attributes that differentiates the brand from its competitors. For instance, as Elberse (2009) explains that ‘Canon’s reason for turning to Maria Sharapova was her reputation as someone who plays aggressively but with precision, and who has a sense of style – exactly the kinds of attributes it hoped to emphasize in marketing its line of PowerShot cameras’.

The clear images of Sharapova lead to the distinct images of Canon to consumers. Consumers preempt those attributes and feel proud to use Canon PowerShot cameras as they see the difference of stylish Canon to static Nikon or the unclear image of Panasonic. Therefore, Canon appears to have higher number of referrals among consumers and is on the top rank for compact digital camera category, despite their actual qualities. Source: www. letsgodigital. org Source: www. coloribus. com

Despite the fact that celebrity endorsement leads to stronger brand affinity, it conveys the potential hazard to consumers’ affection for brand as the celebrities’ images could change and lose public recognition. The lapse in professional performances may lead to lose in celebrities’ popularity. The preventive tactics for marketers are to study celebrities’ personal and professional life cycles and research on their possibilities to maintain or positively transfer the brand images.

Take David Beckham as an example, since his movement from Manchester United to Real Madrid, AC Milan, and LA Galaxy, he has gradually declined in his top form as the professional football player. He could lose public recognition if he merely maintains a sole image because he is not anymore a representative of the successful athlete with high performance. However, David Beckham appears to convey multiple images such as Posh’s husband, fashion icon, father of four children, and football player, therefore, his life expectancy as brand endorser could be favorably extended (Vincent, et al. , 2009, p. 177).

Consumers still appear to be attracted to Beckham’s endorsed brand as Adidas and Armani. Another potential damage to brand affinity results from celebrities’ public controversies. Rumors, and scandals caused by celebrities’ behaviors could be sources of negative brand images, thus they may ruin consumers’ affections for the brand. As Chung, et al. (2011, p. 4) states that ‘To name a few, Nike: Kobe Bryant when charged with rape, Pepsi: Mike Tyson when charged with beating his wife, Hertz: OJ Simpson and his ? rst degree murder charge, Prince tennis racket: Jennifer Capriati when charged with marijuana possession, [and Nike: Tiger Woods’ in? elity in November 2009. ]’. One study shows evidence that the negative publicity hitting a celebrity who endorses the brand leads to the decline in company’s stock price (Louie, Kulik, and Johnson, 2001 cited in Alsmadi, 2006, p. 73). For example, Knittel and Stango (2009 cited in Chung, et al. , 2011, p. 8) who study the negative impact of Tiger Woods’ infidelity scandal states that ‘…By looking at the stock prices of the ? rms that Tiger Woods endorses, they estimate that, after the event in November 2009, shareholders of Tiger Woods’ sponsors lost $5-12 billion relative to those ? ms that Woods did not endorse. ’ However, it is important to address that the negative effects are more likely to affect the brand in the short-term than damaging entire consumers’ brand choices. According to the Harris Poll (2010), ‘Three-quarters of Americans (74%) say when a celebrity endorser gets involved in a scandal, it doesn’t impact the way they feel about the brand or brands they endorse. ’ There is also an evidence to support that sales of Nike product were negative up to March before becoming positive in April 2010 since his public scandal revealed in November 2009 (Chung, et al. , 2011, p. 24).

In conclusion, celebrity endorsement could strengthen the consumers’ affections for brands as it helps reassure product quality and well-portrayed distinct brand images to consumers. This is because the credibility and attractiveness embedded in celebrities are easy to access and approachable. Although there are potential hazard effects due to celebrities’ images changing and public controversies, they can be prevented and merely lead to the short-term affect on branding. All in all, celebrities’ roles as the endorsers in the commercials could create favorable emotional connection between the consumers and the brands.

However, further cognitive research on the relationship between brand affinity and celebrity endorsement is worth undertaking, as it could examine the true value of celebrity endorsement programs given to the brands and companies’ investments.

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