Magazine article Management Today

Reach for the Stars

Magazine article Management Today

Reach for the Stars

Article excerpt

Hiring a megastar to endorse a product is often fraught with difficulties, says Alan Mitchell. But top companies persist with personality advertising because rewards can be huge

Pity poor Nike. In the build-up to Euro'96, it ran a powerful advertising campaign featuring Newcastle United team-mates Les Ferdinand and David Ginola facing each other in showdown mode in front of their national flags (English and French respectively). The slogan read `Friendship expires 6/96'. It was great attention-grabbing advertising which cleverly associated Nike with the sport's surging emotions. There was only one problem -- neither player made the national team during the tournament.

Nike's marketers haven't always had such bad luck. The brand wouldn't be the global icon it is today without the endorsement of celebrity sportsmen like US basketball superstar Michael Jordan and Eric Cantona in the UK. `Celebrities bring celebrity,' notes Seamus O'Farrell, a board director at Abbott Mead Vickers, the agency that has used celebrities to good effect for clients such as BT and Sainsbury.

A celebrity halo is only one of the things marketers seek when they deploy personalities and stars to advertise their brands. Hopefully, the star can also be used to represent what the brand stands for. When Walkers marketers hit upon an advertising strategy based on the theme that Walkers crisps are `so nice that the nicest people would nick them', Gary Lineker -- `Mr Nice' -- became an obvious choice as brand rep. With Lineker, `you get the point very quickly,' says Walkers marketing director Martin Glenn. Other personalities can also be used for their adaptability. Bob Hoskins is used by BT to unify ads promoting a vast range of different products and services. `He brings synergy,' explains O'Farrell.

Personality advertising can work a treat. Before Glenn signed up Lineker, unprompted awareness of Walkers' ads bobbed around 40%. Post-Lineker, unprompted awareness never falls below 60%. If the ads are on air, prompted awareness rises to 96%. The acid test, however, is sales. And ever since Lineker started stealing packets of crisps from little boys, they've soared. Says Glenn: `I've never been involved in any advertising that has worked so well.'

Walkers may be happy, but celebrity endorsements have their drawbacks. …

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