The key to successful celebrity endorsements has always been relevance. From Wedgewood’s adoption of the royal warrant 250 years ago to Nike’s use of Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan in recent times, the best partnerships have been where the product and the person make sense together. The china teaset the Queen uses, the shoes Michael Jordan performs in – simple and effective ways to reinforce the product’s quality.
Lately the airlines have tapped into this to better highlight their food and beverage offerings, with Neil Perry becoming Qantas’ executive chef and Luke Mangan taking that role at Virgin.
And for decades fashion brands have aligned themselves with actors, sports stars, supermodels and now major social media influencers. Jennifer Hawkins’ association with Myer is one of the longest running in Australia.
Red Bull has myriad ambassadors and athletes around the world, none more familiar than Felix Baumgartner, whose jump from the edge of space reinforced the tagline “Red Bull gives you wings”.
Swisse’s entire marketing strategy has been built on celebrity endorsement. It tapped into the likes of Ricky Ponting and Mark Webber in the late 2000s, then Nicole Kidman once it pushed its business globally – all to promote the role of vitamins in a busy and successful life.
A celebrity endorsement slightly more difficult for marketers to pull off involves the ambassador representing either the values or a benefit of the product. It becomes a two-step process for the consumer to make the link between the person and the product. Examples are an authentic person to represent an authentic product, or a fast person to represent the speed of the product – as in Usain Bolt and Optus. The link is certainly there, but it can take an extra moment of thought that some consumers will take and some won’t.
Similarly, Mercedes’ partnership with Henry Rollins in the series of podcasts called Tough Conversations is designed to highlight the “tough but classy” image of its new ute. It’s an impressive campaign, but it does run a similar risk in terms of a celebrity endorsement strategy.