Celebrity Endorsement As Effective Advertising Approach Cultural Studies Essay

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This literature review examines the advertising strategy, with a particular focus on 'why' and 'when' a celebrity endorsement is an effective advertising approaches. This paper will provide insights to the studies and findings completed by previous notable researchers with sources taken from books, academic website as well as electronic journal. The review is structured as follows. It starts by discussing theoretical issues linked to the concept of celebrity endorsement in today`s world. Subsequently, this is followed with its role and usefulness of celebrity as part of advertising strategy and for the final part of the paper it will concentrates on the questions of 'why' and 'when' celebrity endorsement can be used beneficially or profitably.


Generally, the idea of celebrity advertising or endorsement began dates back to the late nineteenth century and started to reach out widely when Pepsi uses ad famed racecar driver, Barney Oldfield (Wells et al. 2006). Ever since then, this approach has becoming more common with most celebrity endorsers came from the entertainment world or the sports world, though politicians and business personalities may also appear in commercials. This view has been supported in the work of Sliburyte (2009) as her experimental evidence indicates that approximately 20 to 25 % of advertisements feature some well-known individual as a product endorser.

Celebrities as defines by Tellis (2004) are individuals who are well recognized to the population because of the exposure associated with their lives. On the other hand, endorser in the framework of consumer marketing is an individual who liberally supports or appears with a service or product in a way that is communicable to the public (Sanchez and Sutton-Brady, 2004). Consequently, with all the media hype surroundings them, celebrities enjoy high profiles, attractive images in the eyes of the public and idiosyncratic persona (Giles 2000; McCracken 1989). Therefore with its ability to penetrate the busy clutter of advertising spots, create and differentiate product images, generating high recall rates as well as sales and profit, and draw consumer attention, celebrity endorsement has proven to be a valuable strategy (Erdogan, 1999; Mathur, and Rangan, 1997). This latter statement also agreed by Solomon (2002), where he believes that, celebrity endorsement are perceived by viewers as more entertaining and is likely to influence consumers brand attitude and purchase meanings . As a result many companies have invested great sums of money in employing celebrities to promote their products. Nike, for instance, signed a $100 million, 5 year contract with Tiger Woods for his endorsement (Isidore, 2003).


Perhaps most important role, an endorser must match up well with the endorsed brand's (Shimp, 2003). As images of the personalities become related with products through endorsement, the meanings they attach to the products are conveyed to consumers through purchase and consumption (McCracken, 1989). Therefore, the practice of celebrity endorsement should be very much associated to the cultural perspective in which the images of celebrities are created and individual celebrities are selected to be linked with particular products. Studies outlined by Till and Busler (2000) suggest that the celebrity or product fit, also known as the 'match-up hypothesis', refers to the harmony of the match connecting the product being endorsed and the personality endorser.

In addition to that, Shimp (2003) further states that there are 2 types of 'match-up', which are audience match up, where it deals with the endorsed brand's target market along with brand match up, where celebrity's values and decorum must be compatible with the image desired for the advertised brand. Product fit is thought to function as a main determinant of endorsement success (Friedman & Friedman 1979; Kahle and Homer 1985; Erdogan et al. 2001; Batra and Homer 2004) although celebrity effectiveness does vary across different product types. Friedman and Friedman (1979) concluded that the better the celebrity or product fit, as professed by consumers, the higher the level of endorsement value. Nevertheless, Till and Busler (2000) argue that celebrity or product fit was effective for only certain measures of effectiveness such as brand attitude, but not for other measures such as purchase intention. Despite of the impact celebrity/product fit has on effectiveness Till and Busler (2000) considered this factor should play a significant role in celebrity endorser usefulness.


4.1 - Factors / reasons

Pickton and Broderick (2005) and Kelman (1998) considered 3 type of source attributes that are source credibility, attractiveness and expertness, where he believe may influence the recipient's attitude which may explain why celebrity endorsement can be used as an advert tool. Erdogan (1999) also agreed with the theory and its positive consequence on the audience's reception to the conveyed message. According to him, the 'source' is the person who is conveying a message to an audience.

The Source Credibility Model

In the context of celebrity endorsement, O' Mahony and Meenaghan (1998) claim that credibility relates to the target audience's perception of the celebrity having sufficient knowledge or experience to provide accurate. The model contends that the effectiveness of a message depends on the perceived level expertise and trustworthiness in an endorser (Hovland et al. 1953). Consequently, the more favorably consumers assess the expertise and trustworthiness of a celebrity endorser, the more likely the celebrity is to be regarded as a reliable source of information on the product and thus the better the brand he/she endorses is represented (Ohanian, 1990).

According to Belch and Belch (1998) spokesperson are regularly chosen because of their knowledge, experience and expertise in a particular product or service area. The importance of using expert sources was also shown in a study by Ohanian (1991), who found that the perceived capability of celebrity endorsers was more essential in explaining purchase intentions. Ohanian further states, endorsers are most useful when they are experienced, knowledgeable and qualified to talk about the product. In addition to that, while expertise is important, the target audience must also find the endorsers believable. Trustworthiness as define by Tellis (2004) is the willingness of the source to make true claims. The research conducted by Miller and Baseheart (1969) established that consumer behavior is openly related to the confidence they put in expert endorsers.

The Source Attractiveness Model

Another equally important attribute of the source of celebrity endorsement is its attractiveness. Langmeyer and Shank (1994) maintain that the concept of source attractiveness is not limited to good looks only, but also encompasses such non-physical characteristics as, for example, abilities in sports, grace, tact, charisma or intelligence. The theory is agreed by Shimp (2001) where he also affirmed that attractiveness multifaceted and does not include just physical attractiveness.

The Meaning Transfer Model

Unlike the Source Models, this theory proposed by Grant McCracken in 1989 contends that credibility and attractiveness do not sufficiently explain why celebrity endorsement works. According to this model, endorser effectiveness depends on the culturally acquired meanings he or she brings which may includes status, career, gender as well as personality and lifestyle. For example, from the celebrity athlete perspective, Roger Federer is publicly recognized from his career in the sporting arena since this is where he became known to the public. Martin (1996) concludes in effect the athlete become's synonymous with the sport and the meanings become a part of the celebrity athlete's image.

Next, for the second stage, McCracken suggests endorsers will bring their meanings into the ad and transfer them to the product they are endorsing. Thus people evaluations of the celebrity endorsement, the measure of interest in this research occur when the advertisement is viewed by consumer. In the final stage, the meanings has given to the product are transferred to the consumer. As stated by McCracken (1989), this stage positively shows the importance of the consumer's role in the process of endorsing brands with celebrities although Belch and Belch (1998) arguably said that this stage is complicated and difficult to achieve.

4.2 - The timing

According to Tellis (2004), the source credibility theory is most relevant for explaining the role of experts, while the source attractiveness is applicable in the case of lay endorses like fictitious individuals or characters. Furthermore, both Tellis (2004) and McCracken (1989), indicates that the meaning transfer theory suits the use of celebrities as endorsers, as it provides an insightful framework for using the complexity of meanings associated with celebrities.

Celebrity endorsement is best used during the maturity phase of a life cycle (Anon, 2004). Promotion and advertising transfers from the scope of having new customers, to the extent of product differentiation in terms of reliability and quality. During this phase new brands are launched even when they compete with competitors, thus this is when celebrity endorsement can take place.

Although, the use of celebrity endorsers is prevalent in advertising, however it is not without risk (Shimp and Till, 1998). When a company decides to use a celebrity, they should consider major factors ( Shimp, 2001 and Belch and Belch, 1998) as the timing might be in appropriate for an endorsement:


If a celebrity is overexposed, that is endorsing too many brands, his or her credibility may suffer ( Tripp et al. 1994). David Beckham, for example, may be somewhat overexposed.

Cost consideration

How much to acquire a celebrity`s services is an important consideration and unfortunately, it is not a simple calculation as it is difficult to project the revenue stream ( Belch and Belch, 1998).

The Trouble factor

As noted by Shimp (2001) celebrity behavior may pose a risk to a company. For example Gatorade had to drop Tiger Woods as its endorser due to the recent incidents.

Target audience receptivity

A study by Horowitz ( 2002),found that college-age students were more prone to have a positive attitude towards a product endorsed by a celebrity than were older consumers. This is supported by Belch and Belch (2001) where they indicates that this is because older consumers are more knowledgeable and has strongly established attitudes.


This literature review aims to provide the assessment on the use of celebrity spokespersons in advertising to endorse brands. Through the findings the purchase intentions of consumers are closely related to the credibility of a celebrity endorser used in an advertisement, their perceptions of expertise of a celebrity endorser, the attractiveness and popularity of the latter as well as celebrity-product mix-match. However, as several failures show, it is essential for advertisers to be aware of the complex processes underlying celebrity endorsement, by gaining an understanding of the described concepts of source attractiveness and credibility, match-up analysis, and meaning transfer model. Further research efforts must be taken into consideration to develop a consistent, extensive and user-friendly tool to avoid wrong decisions and enhance the strategic quality of endorser decisions.

Figure 1: Meaning transfer in the endorsement process (Adapted from McCracken 1989)

Figure 2: The Five Components in the TEARS Model of Endorser Attributes