Female celebrity being photographed

To Endorse or Not to Endorse

Do Celebrity Endorsements Still Work?

From the Pioneer Woman Ree Drumond’s work with Land O’Lakes to the many faces of the Olympics, you don’t have to look far to find a celebrity spokesperson. It seems that there isn’t a consumer product or service that is exempt from the lure of connecting a celebrity, be they big or small, to a brand or company.

But does it pay off?

It can.

A 2015 Social Media Week article indicated a simple celebrity or athlete endorsement announcement from a company can cause stock prices to rise immediately. The research also shows an endorsement of this type can yield an average 4 percent increase in sales.

These sales and stock bumps can be hard to ignore for marketers. But success is about more than just an endorsement. It’s about finding the right endorsement for your brand. Being a celebrity is not enough.

The ideal match does two key things for your brand:

  1. Expands your brand footprint. A good endorsement opens up new markets for the brand. If your endorser just resonates with your current customer base, it may not be worth the investment.
  2. Strengthens your brand personality. Find someone who isn’t just a celebrity but can serve as a human reflection of your brand values. This connection makes your brand relatable and aspirational, and helps you build trust with your customers.

Sounds easy, but it is nuanced. For example, say you have an ag company that wants to make their offering more appealing to millennials returning to the farm. They go out of their way to highlight how innovative and cutting edge their brand is to be more attractive to that consumer. On paper, Lady Gaga is the perfect fit. She is innovative, appeals to this demographic, has a great deal of credibility in what she does, and would definitely expand the brand footprint. But Lady Gaga on the farm? In her meat dress? Probably not.

When you venture into ag, the nuances become even more pronounced. Not only do you have to think about the key impacts for the brand, but you must also look at their stance on agriculture. Big shock here, but many celebrities have baggage when it comes to ag. Oprah and the beef industry, anyone?

So does a celebrity lifestyle rule out a match with ag? Not at all. Look beyond the celebrity to the natural connection. While not as obvious and available as connecting an athlete to shoes or a Kardashian to lipstick, they are there. AgDaily recently ran a list of the seven biggest pro-farmer celebrities, ranging from Luke Bryan to Jimmy Kimmel. Not on that list, but definitely should be considered is Amy Schumer. In 2016, she bought back the family farm that had to be sold when she was a child.

Then there’s Chris Soules, Prince Farming, of The Bachelor fame. Soules became the ag poster boy as an Iowa farmer, first on The Bachelor and then Dancing with the Stars. His celebrity was everything that ag could, and did, hope for, and they capitalized on it. Personal appearances. Speaking engagements. Soules seemed to be everywhere. Then an early 2017 drunk driving incident drove home the one thing that makes celebrity endorsements tricky.

Celebrities are humans and make mistakes. Unfortunately, those mistakes don’t just impact the individual but the brand they are attached to as well. And every time something catastrophic happens, marketers everywhere weigh the benefits vs. risks of celebrity endorsements.

Endorsements can still make sense, even with the risk involved, if marketers focus on the level of influence gained from the endorsement and have a plan in place if things go wrong. This keeps everyone from being star-struck and puts the focus squarely on the brand. This focus will help ensure long-term success.