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The Impact Of Using Athletes As Celebrity Endorsers Marketing Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Marketing
Wordcount: 3471 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The Sports industry is a highly valued form of social interaction in the United Kingdom and around the world. Major sports events attract millions of viewers and trigger strong opinions. Athletes are perceived as role models and consumers tend to believe athletes, especially those with a positive public image.

But does the use of athletes in celebrity endorsements always impact on the purchasing decisions of consumers?

Endorsement advertising is a strong weapon in the promotion of products and services. The use of celebrities as endorsers is one of its most popular forms of advertising by many organisations.

According to Sliburyte (2009) empirical evidence indicates that “approximately 20 to 25% of advertisements feature some famous person as a product endorser”.

Many organisations have the notion that using athletes as celebrity endorsers will lead to successful selling of their products to consumers. According to Fill (2002) “celebrities are used to enable the message being conveyed to stand out among the clutter and noise that typifies many markets”. While it has been proven by great deals of academic literatures, that the use of celebrities in advertising generates a lot of publicity and attention from the public, this research is focused on some arguments still needed to be explored further. For an instance, what is the combination of celebrity and products or services being endorsed? How consistent are consumers’ purchasing behaviours regarding the endorsed product and does negative media involving the celebrity impact on consumers buying behaviours of the product. For this reason, it is of great interest to investigate this topic further.

Atkin & Block (1983) pointed out there were two reasons why celebrity endorsers have gained so much popularity;

They are traditionally viewed as being highly dynamic, having both attractive and likeable qualities.

Their fame is thought to attract attention to the product

It is the aim of this dissertation to integrate the research on branding, endorsement and consumer behaviour in order to study the impact of the use of athletes as celebrity endorsers in advertisements; to find out how consumers view these advertisements by measuring their attitudes toward the advertisement and the celebrity and their purchased intentions towards the endorsed items.

For this research, Adidas and Gillette, two companies’ regularly using celebrities in endorsing their products will be analysed to demonstrate the impact the use of celebrities in advertising their brand has on consumer purchasing behaviours. Gillette is a brand of Procter & Gamble currently used for safety razors, among other personal hygiene products. The company is based in Boston, Massachusetts and is one of several brands originally owned by The Gillette Company, a leading global supplier of products under various brands, which was acquired by P&G in 2005. Their slogan is, “The Best a Man Can Get” (Gillette.com) On the other hand, Adidas AG is a German-based sports apparel manufacturer and parent company of the Adidas Group, which consists of the Reebok sportswear company, Taylor Made-adidas golf company, and Rockport. The company is the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe and the second biggest sportswear manufacturer in the world, after its U.S. rival Nike (adidas.com)

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This research will focus on a series of advertisements on TV, and Magazine by celebrities; Tiger Woods & Thierry Henry for Gillette and David Beckham for Adidas and the impact of these advertisements on motivation to buy and evaluation of usage by consumers. The choice to use these athletes in the analysis is simply because of the negative press they have had in the past.

To reach this, the following research questions will be asked:

Why do organisations use athletes as celebrity endorsers?

How are the athletes selected?

How can the risks of using athlete endorsers be described?

What does the celebrity represent and what does the advertiser want to communicate with the buyer when they see the celebrity promoting the product.

Hypotheses are as follow:

Organisations use athletes as celebrity endorsers to increase the brand image and identity of the product.

Consumers are likely to purchase the products once they see it has been advertised by a celebrity.

Should the lifestyle of the celebrity change, this will impact on consumer’s attitude to the brand and purchasing behaviour.



Aaker, D.A (1991) Managing brand equity; Capitalizing on the value of a brand name. New York: The free press

Aaker, D.A (1996) Building Strong Brands, New York: The Free Press

Belch, G.E. & Belch, M.A. (1999), Advertising and Promotion – An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective. Boston: McGraw-Hill

Fill, C (2002) Marketing Communications; Context, Strategies and Applications. 3rd Ed. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.

Tellis, G.J., (1998), Advertising and sales promotion strategy. Reading: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc.

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Practitioners’ Views on Celebrity and Athlete Endorsers”. Marketing Bulletin, Vol.16, No.3, pp.1-10

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Petty, R.E. et al. (1983), “Central and peripheral routes to advertising effectiveness: the moderating role of involvement”, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 10 pp.135-46.

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The review of literature will focus on the theories of celebrity endorsements in sports, advertising and the theory of brand perception as well as the models used in celebrity selection.

The history of the use of celebrities as endorsers dates back to the 18th century when “British actress Lillie Langtry became the first celebrity endorser in the world by featuring on packages of pears soap” (Morin, 2002).

Since then, the use of celebrity endorsers in advertising has increased and endorser strategy is now one of the most popular marketing practices used by organisations to increase brand awareness.

According to PFP (2010), a sports & celebrity talent agency, companies spend close to one billion dollars equivalent to almost £660 million GBP (see table 1.0 below for currency conversion) on endorsements each year.

Organisations practice this strategy with the intention to increase consumers purchase intentions and preferences towards the brand.

Table 1.0: Currency conversion from United State Dollars to Great British Pounds

Live rates at 2010.04.10 08:11:28 UTC

1,000,000,000.00 USD

650,749,339.25 GBP

United States Dollars

United Kingdom Pounds

1 USD = 0.650749 GBP

1 GBP = 1.53669 USD

Source: Adapted from XE (Universal Currency Converter)

McCracken (1989) provided a definition for a celebrity as “individuals who enjoy public recognition and who use this recognition on behalf of a consumer good by appearing with it in an advertisement”.

A celebrity endorser as highlighted by Friedman & Friedman (1979) is an “individual who is known to the public for his/her achievements in areas other than that of the product class endorsed”.

A celebrity athlete according to Charbonneau & Garland (2005) is a “publicly recognized sports star who uses that public recognition to help another (usually a corporate client) sell or bolster the image of specific goods and services”.

Belch & Belch (2001) argue that for a celebrity to be chosen as an endorser, he/she must be perceived as “credible and trustworthy by consumers”. This is very important because as pointed out by (Kelman, 1961; Ohanian, 1991) “information from a credible source can influence beliefs, opinions, attitudes and /or behavior through a process called internationalization, which occurs when receivers accept a source influence in terms of their personal attitude and value structures”.

Forbes.com lists the top 10 highest paid celebrity athletes between June 2008 and June 2009 by evaluating their earnings from salaries, bonuses, prize money, endorsements and licensing income.

Table 2.0 shows the top ten highest paid athletes of 2009.


Earnings in millions between 06/08 -06/09

Tiger Woods

$110 =£72

Kobe Bryant

$45 =£30

Michael Jordan

$45 =£30

Kimi Raikkonen

$45 = £30

David Beckham

$42 =£28

LeBron James

$40 =£27

Phil Mickelson

$40 =£27

Manny Pacquiao

$40 = £27

Valentino Rossi

$35 =£23

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

$34 =£22

Source: Adapted from www.forbes.com

The exchange rate used in calculations during my pre- research was Currency Conversion adapted from XE (Universal Currency Converter) – Conversion from USD to GBP has been rounded up to a whole number.

Source: http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert.cgi

In this study, the focus on the use of athletes as celebrity endorsers will be in advertising campaigns.

According to Fill (2002) the main roles of advertising are “to build awareness, induce a dialogue and to (re)position brands by changing either perception or attitudes”.

Advertising is important because it can influence audiences by informing or reminding them of the existence of a brand.

For a message to be communicated effectively, it should have the right target audience, capable of gaining attention, understandable and acceptable.

The importance of brands to organisations is very important. Fill (2002) pointed out that a successful brand “is one which creates and sustains a strong, positive and lasting impression in the mind of the buyer”.

Aaker (1991) goes on further to say “a brand is a distinguishing name and/or symbol (such as a logo, trademark, or package design) intended to identify the goods or services of either one seller or a group of sellers, and to differentiate those goods or services from those of competitors”.

In order to increase sales of their products, organisations must use means to communicate their products to consumers.

According to Aaker (1996) brand awareness refers to “the strength of a brand’s presence in the consumer’s mind”. Brand awareness is “the ability of a potential buyer to recognize or recall that a brand is a member of a certain product category”.

“It involves a continuum ranging from an uncertain feeling that the brand is recognized, to a belief that it is the only one in the product class”.

It is the belief that by using a celebrity endorser to advertise a brand, the indirect information transmitted to the consumer becomes more credible and more relevant. The result is that “the consumer has the perception of a higher quality for the advertised product” (Floyd, 1999). Since consumers prefer high quality over low quality, the endorsed product is more likely to be purchased.

However, with benefits comes risks’ involving the use of celebrity endorsers in advertising. “Controversy involving the endorser can lead to corporate embarrassments and transfer of negative attitudes to the brand” (Till & Shrimp, 1998).

White et al (2009) adapted Miciak & Shanklin’s (1994) statement which pointed out that when an endorser’s image becomes “tarnished by allegations of illicit, unethical, unusual, or even slightly unconventional behavior”, this instantly creates problems for the endorsement.

The recent scandal of Golf professional Tiger Woods in 2009 (“Tiger Woods Sex Scandal […]”, 2009) is an example of how negative publicity can affect an endorsed brand. This led to a drop in his endorsement deals with many of his clients. However, if this was the case, why did he still manage to gain $110 million in a year, taking the lead of best paid athlete that year (Forbes.com) even with the negative press? Did the scandal influence sale of Gillette products at all?

Other risks are overshadowing, Overexposure, financial risks, and so on and so forth.

According to Tellis (1998), “celebrities by their very nature are public figures whose moves are carefully watched by the media and whose achievements and failings are quickly publicized”.

As observed frequently, when a star is on the rise, the media will glorify him/ her and when faced with negative publicity, the media will gloat over it.

Petty et al (1983) mentioned there were “two main routes whereby consumers received information communicated to them and acted in accordance with it. These are the central and peripheral routes”.

Kahle & Homer(1985) pointed out “attractive celebrities were more acceptable and brought more influence to bear on the recipient of the advertisement than charmless ones”.

This theory was disagreed by Langmeyer & Shank (1994) who pointed out that the concept of source attractiveness was not just limited to good looks but also included abilities in sports, charisma, grace, tact and intelligence”.

Several models have been created by many scholars over the years to aid in the selection process of a good celebrity endorser.

McCracken (1989) introduced the ‘Meaning Transfer Model’ which maintains that “celebrity endorsers must possess cultural meanings such as status and lifestyle, which can transfer to the products being endorsed”.

Ohanian (1990) also identified a ‘Source-credibility scale’ see figure 1 below, which celebrities had to possess in order “to make their advertisements believable” and increase purchase level of the product.

Table 1 below demonstrates the variables of the source credibility scale.






Not an expert-Expert

Not Classy-Classy









Not sexy-Sexy



Source: Ohanian, R. (1990)


Secondary data will be sourced from brand textbooks written by widely recognized authors like Leslie de Chernatony and Malcolm McDonald, Ohanian, Kotler etc.

In addition, web based articles and publications will also be used. Journals such as Journal of advertising research etc., which can be sourced from the University electronic database such as Emerald, provided in the Thames Valley library will also be sourced.

Primary data will be collected using a questionnaire designed to understand consumers’ perceptions on the use of athletes as celebrity endorsers, by measuring their attitudes and perceptions towards the advertised products and their purchase intentions towards the product.

A quote sample size of 100 people will be chosen, and the focus will be on students.

The locations where the questionnaires are to be carried out will be TVU campus and Reading University Campus. A convenience sample of 50 per location giving 100 in total is planned. It is intended to obtain specific information about consumers buying behaviours’ towards the endorsed products, and for that matter, the respondents will have to have at least watched the Gillette or Adidas advertisement or purchased a Gillette/ Adidas product in the last year. Due to time limitations, the focus will be on UK consumers only

Data to be generated by the questionnaires include personal data such as age, gender, income etc. to build a demographic profile of the sample.

In terms of data analysis, the SPSS package will be implemented, to analyse the data generated by the questionnaire.


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