Impact of Celebrity Endorsement on Overall Brand

Sanyukta A. Kulkarni
Sahir U. Gaulkar
PGDBM1 2005-07
Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research
L. Napoo Road, Matunga (CR), Mumbai–400 019
E-mail: /


Today 'Celebrity Endorsement' has attracted immense debate on whether it really contributes to the brand building process or whether it is just another lazy tool to make the brand more visible in the minds of the consumers. Although it has been observed that the presence of a well-known personality helps in solving the problem of over-communication that is becoming more prominent these days, there are few undesirable impacts of this practice on the brand. The theories like 'Source Credibility Theory, Source Attractiveness Theory and Meaning Transfer Theory' provide a basis on which the methodology of celebrity endorsement works and also explains how the process of the celebrity endorsement influences the minds of the consumers. Firms invest huge amounts as advertising expenditure for hiring the right celebrity. However there lies uncertainty with respect to the returns that the company might be able to garner for the brand. The issue of matching the values of the celebrity with the brand values is also very important, i.e. getting the right celebrity to endorse the right brand. Consumers perceive the brand as having superior quality because it has been endorsed by a credible source. This makes endorsement as one of the indictors of quality for any brand. Corporate credibility along with endorser credibility plays a significant role in the attitude of the consumer towards the brand and the advertisement respectively. On the other hand, the over popularity of the celebrity sometimes overshadows the brand. If the celebrity is involved in multiple endorsements, it tends to create confusion among consumers and hence negatively affects the perception of the advertisement and the brand. Hence, to say clearly whether the practice of celebrity endorsement impacts positively or negatively to the brand still remains a debate.


The society that we live in can not only be called secular or democratic, it should be more appropriately termed as over-communicated these days. A typical super-market in USA displays more than 12000 brands, an American family has at least one television set and a consumer is exposed to around 1000 ads per day1. Likewise, there are around 130 television channels in India broadcasting over 3 million television commercials each year in India. The media-explosion can thus be easily demonstrated. More over, people forget 80% of the information in just 24 hours! Just imagine the plight of the marketer to make his brand shout over the deafening clutter of all the brands! Some where in the 80's, Indian marketers found the solution, 'Celebrity Endorsement' for the brand!

Firms endorse celebrity for a variety of reasons. It might be the life experience of the celebrity that fits the advertising message or the endorser's high appeal with the firm's consumer target group. Studies associated with the market effect of celebrity endorsement suggest that consumers positively value the use of celebrity endorsers in the advertisements. Firms invest significant money in putting together brands and organisations with endorser qualities such as attractiveness, likeability, and trustworthiness. But today's dynamic market conditions make these investments unviable. In this paper we are attempting to discuss the positive and negative effects of celebrity endorsement with few examples.


Celebrities are involved in endorsing activities since late nineteenth century2. The advent of celebrity endorsements in advertising in India began when Hindi film and TV stars as well as sportspersons began encroaching on a territory that was, until then, the exclusive domain of models3. One of the first sports endorsements in India was when Farokh Engineer became the first Indian cricketer to model for Bryl cream. The Indian cricket team now earns roughly Rs. 100 crore through endorsements. 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).

Mechanism and Theories of Celebrity Endorsement

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. In short it helps increase the recall value of the brand. A piece of research states that the target audience age group of 15-30 gets influenced first by cricketers, then Bollywood stars and only then music, festivals and food4.

According to Source Credibility Theory5, acceptance of the message depends on 'Expertness' and Trustworthiness' of the source. Expertness is defined as the perceived ability of the source to make valid assertions. Trustworthiness is defined as the perceived willingness of the source to make valid assertions. Audience acceptance increases with the expertness of the source and the ability of the audience to evaluate the product.

According to Source Attractiveness Theory, which is based on social psychological research, the acceptance of the message depends on familiarity, likeability and similarity. Familiarity is the audience's knowledge of the source through exposure; likeability is the affection for the source's physical appearance and behavior while similarity is the resemblance between source and receiver. This theory explains the message acceptance in two ways: Identification and Conditioning. Identification is when the receiver or the target audience of the communication begins to identify with the source's attractiveness, and hence tends to accept his opinions, beliefs, habits, attitudes etc. On identification, a quote from Bijou Kurien, COO, Titan, "We decided on Aamir because we wanted someone who is a biticonic, who is style-conscious himself, and somebody who cuts across both sex and age group, between urban and rural India. A celebrity who is mouldable and who is not over-exposed". Conditioning is when the attractiveness of the source is supposed to pass on to the brand after regular association of the source with the brand.

Grant McCracken6 has criticized the previous two theories and proposed the Meaning Transfer Theory. The theory explains that a celebrity encodes a unique set of meanings which if well used can be transferred to the endorsed product. Such a transfer takes place in three stages – encoding meanings, meaning transfer, meaning capture (Figure 1).

I. Encoding Meanings: Each celebrity has a unique set of meanings, which can be listed by age, gender, race, wealth, personality or lifestyle. In this way, the celebrities encode a set of meanings in their image. For example Preity Zinta can be seen as a lively, charming, bubbly, witty and enthusiastic.

II. Meaning Transfer: This stage transfers those meanings to the product. When skillfully portrayed, celebrities can communicate this image more powerfully than lay endorsers.

III. Meaning Capture: This assumes that consumers purchase products not merely for their functional value but also for their cultural and symbolic value. The theory says that consumers buy the endorsed product with the intention of capturing some of the desirable meanings with which celebrities have passed on to the product. This is more eminent in lifestyle products like clothes, perfumes, cell phones etc.


Does celebrity endorsement really work? Theoretically yes, because the qualities associated with the endorser are associated with the brand and the brand therefore remains at the top of the consumer's mind. However one needs to realize that the impact of an endorser cannot be sustainable in all product categories and in all the stages of brand life cycles. It really depends upon the type of product. If it is a 'functional brand', then the product itself is the hero. Here any celebrity association with the brand without corresponding performance of the product will not be sustainable. While incase of 'image brands', like the categories of soaps, soft drinks, cigarettes etc., where it is difficult to distinguish between the products, celebrity endorsements help to distinguish between the brands at an emotional level. A research conducted by Synovate7, a global market research firm, revealed that 47% people would be more likely to buy a brand that was endorsed by their favorite celebrity.

Pepsi Co. has used a variety of celebrities including Aishwarya Rai, Hrithik Roshan, Amitabh Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor, Rahul Khanna, Fardeen Khan, Sachin Tendulkar etc. Amongst advertisements featuring celebrities, Pepsi tops the heap with the highest recall of 70%, while arch rival Coke is lower across all markets with 52% recall. This proves that Pepsi has really exploited the use of celebrities in their advertisements and has worked8.

Hindustan Lever's 'Lux' soap in India has been using popular film actresses to endorse the soap since its launch four decades ago implying that they owe their stunning looks to the brand. This consistent message hence reinforces the brand values and has been successfully able to position the soap rightly as the 'beauty soap'9 .

It would be difficult to judge the direct effect of celebrity endorsement on the sales or profits of the company. On Amitabh Bachchan endorsing RIN, an HLL spokesperson says that it was too early to gauge the success of 'Rin' in terms of sales and that though Dabur healthcare products' sales had improved, the increase could not be solely attributed to him10. Similarly, there are also cases wherein there was a dramatic change in the sales figure after the endorsements. For example Rahul Malhotra, Associate Director Marketing, P&G India quotes "Certainly, it has helped us promote our brand 'Head & Shoulders'. Last year, we were ranked as No. 2 and this year we are market leaders in this segment with over 45% market share".

D. Garg, Vice-President (Marketing), Dabur India Ltd quotes, "A celebrity does help in increasing brand sales, but only if he/she is selected carefully and used effectively. The personality of the brand and the celebrity have to complement each other and the selection of the celebrity is, therefore, very important."

Positive Impacts of Celebrity Endorsement on the Brand

Approval of a brand by a star fosters a sense of trust for that brand among the target audience. This is especially true in case of new product11. Celebrities ensure attention of the target group by breaking the clutter of advertisements and making the advertisement and the brand more noticeable. A celebrity's preference for a brand gives out a persuasive message and hence, because the celebrity is benefiting from the brand, the consumer will also benefit. There is a demographic and psychographic connection between the stars and their fans. Demographic connection establishes that different stars appeal differently to various demographic segments i.e. age, gender, class, geography etc., while psychographic connection establishes that stars are loved and adored by their fans. Some stars have a universal appeal and therefore prove to be a good bet to generate interest among the masses. Another invaluable benefit from celebrity endorsements is the public relation opportunities.

Dwane Hal Dean12 studied the effects of three extrinsic advertisement cues viz. third party endorsement, event sponsorship and brand popularity on brand / manufacturer evaluation. It was observed that endorsement significantly affected only product variables (quality and uniqueness) and one image variable (esteem). The third party endorsement hence may be perceived as a signal of product quality.

Goldsmith et al.13 assessed the impact of endorser and corporate credibility on attitude-toward-the-ad, attitude-toward-the-brand, and purchase intentions. 152 adult consumers were surveyed who viewed a fictitious advertisement for Mobil Oil Company. They rated the credibility of the ad's endorser, the credibility of the company, and attitude-toward-the-ad (Aad), attitude-toward-the-brand (AB), and purchase intentions. It was observed that endorser credibility had its strongest impact on Aad while corporate credibility had its strongest impact on AB. The findings suggest that corporate credibility plays an important role in consumers' reactions to advertisements and brands, independent of the equally important role of endorser credibility.

Looking at the effect of celebrity endorsement on the wealth of a company a classic example of Michael Jordan can be used. At the time of rumors of Michael Jordan returning to NBA in 1995, he was endorsing products of General Mills (Wheaties), Mc'Donalds (Quarter Pounders, Value Meals), Nike (Air Jordan), Quaker Oats (Gatorade) and Sara Lee (Hans Underwear). Study conducted by Mathur et al.14 associated with Jordan's endorsements shows that the anticipation of Jordan's return to NBA, and the related increased visibility for him resulted in increase in the market adjusted values of his client firms of almost 2 percent, or more than $1 bn in stock market value. From this study one can observe that the major celebrity endorser with rumors or otherwise has a tremendous potential to influence the profitability of endorsed products.

Semi-partial endorsement indicates that when a company uses famous characters from any TV soaps for brand endorsements, consumers tend to relate to the character that he or she plays in the soap and hence can attract more credibility. For example, Smriti Irani who plays 'Tulsi' in a famous soap has garnered a lot of support from the middle-class housewife today. If she would endorse a brand, there would be more relativity and credibility. Same can be said about Priya Tendulkar who used to play the character of Rajani.

Negative impacts of Celebrity Endorsement on the brand

More often talked about is the extreme usage of a celebrity called 'lazy advertising', that is inadequate content masked by usage of a celebrity15 . A good example is the use of Boris Becker by Siyaram and Steve Waugh by ANP Sanmar. Also as said earlier, associating with a star, in itself does not guarantee sales. There is also the fear of Brand-celebrity disconnect which points out that if the celebrity used represents values that conflict with the brand values, the advertising would create conflict in the minds of the target audience.

Clutter in brand endorsements is very prominent these days and such kind of over-exposure can be bad for the brand as the recall value drops by a huge margin. A popular drawback of celebrity endorsement is the 'Vampire Effect' or the celebrity overshadowing the brand16. Some viewers forget the brand that a celebrity is approving. Others are so spellbound by the personality of the celebrity that they completely fail to notice the brand being advertised. Two new drawbacks can be seen these days what marketers call Celebrity Trap and Celebrity Credibility17. Celebrity trap is when the celebrity becomes an addiction for the marketing team and the task to find substitutes becomes more and more difficult, leading to surfeit of celebrities. Celebrity credibility refers to skepticism by the consumers regarding the celebrities, especially when there is anything negative regarding the celebrity associated with the brand in the news, then brand is bound to be affected. For example, Air Jordan's generated revenue sales of $130 million in the first year. The sales dropped miserably in the second year when Jordan missed 62 games due to a broken foot18. Another main worry of the advertisers is that their celebrity endorser would get caught in a scandal or an embarrassing situation.

Multiple product endorsement also has a negative impact on customers' purchasing intentions. Tripp et al.19 investigated the effects of multiple product endorsement by celebrities on customers' attitudes and intentions. They found that the number of products a celebrity endorses negatively influences consumer perception of the endorser and the advertising itself. It was suggested that when as many as four products are endorsed, celebrity credibility and likeability, as well as attitude towards the ad, may attenuate.

Superstar Amitabh Bachchan endorses multiple brands like Pepsi, Mirinda, ICICI, BPL, Parker pens, Nerolac, Dabur, Reid & Taylor, Maruti Versa, Hajmola, Tide, Cadbury and a few social messages. It has worked in some cases, while in some cases it has not. D. K. Jain, Chairman and President, Luxor Writing Instruments Pvt. Ltd, the marketer of the Parker brand said, "Using Amitabh Bachchan as our brand ambassador has helped in strengthening our brand image and recall within the target audience". Tarun Joshi, Communications Custodian, Reid & Taylor said, "Amitabh Bachchan is an icon with universal appeal and has helped us to reach out to the real 'Bharat.' In fact, agents and retailers have told us that already customers have started asking about the 'Amitabh wali suiting.'" Incase of Nerolac Paints, which was endorsed by Amitabh Bachchan, around 80% of the respondents when asked to associate Bachchan with any paint, did so with Asian Paints, which is the biggest competitor of Nerolac20.

The budget or cost is an important factor for celebrity endorsement21. Depending on the status of the celebrity, remuneration could run into millions of rupees for several years or may also include a profit sharing plan. For example when S. Kumar's used Hrithik Roshan for their launch advertising for Tamarind, they reckoned they spent 40 - 50 per cent less on media due to the sheer impact of using Hrithik. Sachin's endorsements got him $18 million over five years. When Aamir first endorsed Pepsi in 1995, he received Rs 17 lakh for it; his Coke commercials in 1999 got him Rs 2 crore. Hrithik Roshan in his highflying days reportedly made over Rs. 20 crore in endorsements and events by 200122.

However, a number of brands have been built without celebrity endorsement. For some of their brands, Hindustan Lever and Procter & Gamble do not believe in celebrity endorsement because they think that consumers, especially housewives, are more likely to identify with a lay person on screen than a celebrity. Procter & Gamble launched its 'Rejoice' brand in India with testimonials from ordinary women in their TV advertising. Few more examples of this will be Lifebuoy, Wheel, Dettol, Close Up, Fevicol etc.


Whether Celebrity endorsement has a positive or a negative impact on the brand is a debate that is open to interpretation. But till the time the corporate world continues to foot fancy bills of celebrity endorsers and till consumers continue to be in awe of the stars, the party is not likely to break up.


1 Positioning: A battle for mind - Jack Trout and Al Ries
2 Erdogan (1999), "Celebrity Endorsement: A Literature Review", Journal of Marketing Research, 15, 291-314
4 Hindu Business Line, 2003
5 Tellis, Effective Advertising: Understanding When, How, and Why Advertising works
6 McCracken, Grant (1989), "Who is the Celebrity Endorser?" Journal of Consumer Research, 16 (December), 310-321.
7 – 2003
10 Business Standard, May 13, 2005
12 Dean (1999), "Brand Endorsement, popularity, and Event Sponsorship as advertising cues affecting consumer Pre purchase attitude", Journal of Advertising, Volume XXVIII, Number 3, 1-12
13 Goldsmith, Lafferty and Newell (2000), "The Impact of Corporate Credibility and Celebrity Credibility on Consumer Reaction to Advertisements and Brands", Journal of Advertising, Volume XXIX, number 3, 43-54
14 L. K. Marhur, I. Mathur and N. Rangan (1997) June, "The Wealth Effects Associated with a Celebrity Endorser: The Michael Jordan Phenomena", Journal of Advertising Research,
16 B. Zafer Erdogan, Michael J. Baker and Stephen Tag (2001) June, "Selecting Celebrity Endorsers: The Practitioner's Perspective", Journal of Advertising Research, 39-48
17 – article by Country head, O&M India
18 – article 'Celebrity Endorsements in brands
19 Tripp, Jensen and Carlson (1994) March, "The Effect of Multiple Product Endorsements by Celebrities on Consumers' Attitude and Intentions", Journal of Advertisement Research, Vol 20, 535-547
21 Agrawal and Kamakura (1995) July, "The Economic worth of celebrity endorsers: An event study analysis", Journal of Marketing, Vol 59, 56-62

Sanyukta A. Kulkarni
Sahir U. Gaulkar
PGDBM1 2005-07
Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research
L. Napoo Road, Matunga (CR), Mumbai–400 019
E-mail: /

Source : E-mail October 22, 2005




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