Celebrity Endorsements – A Brand Building Concept

The billions of dollars spent per year on celebrity endorsement contracts show that celebrities, like Liz Hurley, Britney Spears and Tiger Woods, play an important role for the advertising industry. This shows that the practice of using super stars in advertising generates a lot of publicity and attention from the public. The underlying question is, if and how the lively interest of the public in ‘the rich and famous’ can be effectively used by companies to promote their brands and consequently increase revenues.


Companies frequently use spokespersons to deliver their advertising message and convince consumers of their brands. A widely used and very popular type of spokesperson is the celebrity endorser.

The reason for using celebrities as spokespersons goes back to their huge potential influence. Compared to other endorser types, famous people achieve a higher degree of attention and recall. They increase awareness of a company’s advertising, create positive feelings towards brands and are perceived by consumers as more entertaining. Using a celebrity in advertising is therefore likely to positively affect consumers’ brand attitudes and purchase intentions.


A central goal of advertising is the persuasion of customers, i.e., the active attempt to change or modify consumers’ attitude towards brands. In this respect, the credibility of an advertisement plays an important role in convincing the target audience of the attractiveness of the company’s brand. Pursuing a celebrity endorsement strategy enables advertisers to project a credible image in terms of expertise, persuasiveness, trustworthiness, and objectiveness.

To create effective messages, celebrity advertisers also have to consider the attractiveness of the spokesperson. Source attractiveness refers to the endorser’s physical appearance, personality, likeability, and similarity to the receiver, thus to the perceived social value of the source. The use of (by corresponding standards) attractive people is common practice in television and print advertising, with physically attractive communicators having proved to be more successful in influencing customers’ attitudes and beliefs than unattractive spokespersons. This behavior mainly goes back to a halo effect, whereby persons who perform well on one dimension, e.g. physical attractiveness, are assumed to excel on others as well, e.g. happiness and coolness.

Simply assuming that a person just has to be famous to represent a successful spokesperson, however, would be incorrect, with a considerable number of failures proving the opposite. Very well accepted and attractive super stars have failed in turning their endorsements into success.

The late ’80s saw the beginning of celebrity endorsements in advertising in India. Hindi films and TV stars as well as sportspersons began encroaching on a territory that was, until then, the exclusive domain of models. There was a spurt of advertising, featuring stars like Tabassum (Prestige pressure cookers), Jalal Agha (Pan Parag), Kapil Dev (Palmolive Shaving Cream) and Sunil Gavaskar (Dinesh Suitings). Of course, the first ad. to cash in on star power in a strategic, long-term mission statement kind of way was Lux soap, a brand which has been among the top three in the country for much of its lifetime. Detergents on the other hand ran the whole gamut from Lalitaji (the antithesis of celebrity) to Shekhar Suman, stepping into the lives of ordinary housewives.

In the much talked about Shah Rukh-Santro campaign, the organisation wanted to overcome the shortcoming of an unknown brand, Korean at that. The objective was to garner faster brand recognition, association and emotional unity with the target group. The Santro ad. showed the highest recall amongst auto ads.. despite average media spends for the category.

Even the ill-fated Home Trade had hits going up to seven lakhs a day after their campaign featuring Hrithik, Shah Rukh and Sachin.

Basically, celebrity endorsements give a brand a touch of glamour, and the hope that a famous face will provide added appeal and name recognition in a crowded market. In the battle for the mind, you get the customer excited by showing him a known face, and an effective demand is created. This would normally work best when the concerned brand has close substitutes, or has a need for differentiation, or requires quick entry in a short lifecycle category.

Apart from this memorable bit, using a celebrity is supposed to lend instant credibility as well as aspirational values to the brand —– a hope to get people to follow the Pied Piper. For instance, usage of sports personalities in footwear advertising (where the consumer feels that as Sachin wears Adidas, so should he). But here, the marketer needs to be really disciplined in choice of celebrity and the celebrity needs to match the product. For instance, Coke’s Daler Mehndi campaign suffered from this very problem—–it wasn’t aspirational enough. On the other hand, Videocon is using Shah Rukh cleverly to lift the brand from the masses to a more upmarket, techie image.

Sports people have always been celebrities. Only now, the advertising industry is trying to cash in on their mass appeal. In the field of sports, the cricketers take the lion’s share of advertisement contracts for their wide mass appeal where this sport is considered as a religion and Sachin as God.

The much sought-after players of Indian Cricket are: Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Virendra Shewag.

Apart from cricket and cricketers other sport and sportspersons also attract considerable endorsement money. Leading tennis players like Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati (J Hampstead, Adidas), footballer Baichung Bhutia (Reebok, Omega), chess wizard Viswanathan Anand (NIIT), golfers Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa (Mizuno of Japan), Narain Karthikeyan ( Tata group, Amaron, Kingfisher and JK Tyres) attract sizeable endorsement money among others.

In an attempt to fly deeper into the hearts of Indian travellers, tourism promotion boards from the South East Asian region are now looking at Indian ambassadors. Topping the list is Tourism Malaysia, which is in negotiations to sign up both Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai as its brand ambassadors to promote this predominantly Muslim tourist destination among the Indians. Not to be left behind, the Sri Lanka Tourist Board (SLTB) is also planning to ink a similar deal with the Indian cricket team.

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