Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The Use of Celebrity Athletes as Endorsers: Views of the New Zealand General Public

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

The Use of Celebrity Athletes as Endorsers: Views of the New Zealand General Public

Article excerpt


Matching celebrity athletes with potential endorsement opportunities is often difficult. Yet there are easy-to-use survey-based methods available. Based on a survey of the general public in New Zealand, this study uses both Ohanian's source-credibility scale and a constant-sum scale to help brand managers, player agents and advertising practitioners select good celebrity athlete-product fit. Four New Zealand athletes (two males and two females) and several products were included in the test. Results show that the female celebrity athletes outperformed their male counterparts as potential endorsers. Use of Ohanian's multi-attribute scale yields a level of richness and insight, prompting us to advocate the use of both scales in the pursuit of endorser-product congruences.





Executive summary

New Zealand companies have a long history of using professional athletes as endorsers in their promotional campaigns. Celebrity endorsement literature suggests transfer of positive image between the celebrity/athlete and product, service or cause endorsed.

The purpose of this research was to assist sports marketing managers and advertising agencies in matching athletes with products. Following on from athlete endorsement research conducted with tertiary education students (Garland & Ferkins, 2003), the views of the New Zealand general public relative to athlete endorsement were solicited. Ohanian's (1990) 15-item source-credibility scale and the constant-sum scale were used to measure potential endorsement fit for four sporting personalities: Bernice Mene (retired captain, national netball team); Sarah Ulmer (2004 Olympic gold medallist, cycling); Justin Marshall (All Black rugby, most capped halfback); and Stephen Fleming (captain, national cricket team). Confirmatory factor analysis was conducted to validate the Ohanian scale as an appropriate testing instrument for endorsement fit. The Ohanian scale was used to test each athlete's credibility as endorser of a sports drink, with the constant-sum scale used to test their endorsement fit for a sports drink, bottled water, deodorant, honey and a bank account.

Overall, the female athletes scored best on both scales and for all products except the bank account, making them good 'all rounders' for product endorsements. Stephen Fleming and Bernice Mene, both team captains, received comparable scores for endorsement of bank accounts, suggesting perhaps a public perception of their leadership and authority.


Celebrity and celebrity athlete endorsements have long attracted the interest of practitioners, students and researchers (Brooks & Harris, 1998). For this paper, a celebrity athlete endorser is a publicly recognised sports star who uses that public recognition to help another (usually a corporate client) bolster the image of or sell specific goods and services.

Celebrities and celebrity athletes provide benefits that unknown endorsers cannot. Celebrities 'cut through' advertising clutter, hold viewer attention (Charbonneau & Garland, 2005) and transfer positive qualities such as physical attractiveness and likeability to the brand (Ohanian, 1990). They contribute to brand name recognition/recall and assist in the development of credible, distinct brand personalities (Erdogan & Kitchen, 1998). Athletes provide particularly compelling endorsements for products that have contributed to their sporting performance and success (Dyson & Turco, 1997; Stone et al, 2003). However, with these benefits come risks. Increased celebrity attention may lead to brand overshadowing (Erdogan & Kitchen, 1998). Controversy involving the endorser can lead to corporate embarrassment and transfer of negative attitudes to the brand (Till, 2001; Pornpitakpan, 2003). Celebrities endorsing multiple products risk overexposure, lessening the impact and distinctiveness of each product relationship and diminishing consumer perceptions of celebrity credibility and likeability (James & Ryan, 2001; Garland & Ferkins 2003). …

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