The concept of using celebrities to promote something — or having a famous face smile in an ad — is not something foreign

Every year, watching the Superbowl commercials feels like watching the Golden Globes and cosmetics counters have more celebrity photos than People magazine. The bigger the celebrity, the better! 

Society has accepted celebrity cameos as part of marketing, causing brands to do just about anything to get that endorsement. But the situation is not as simple as we might think. 

Alrika Möller from media update pulls back the curtain on celebrity ads. 


Why do brands use celebrities in ads? 

The answer seems simple: to boost sales. However, in reality, the research shows that a celebrity endorsement only increases sales by 4%. You see, people are much more inclined to trust a recommendation from a family member or friend. 

So why do brands go above and beyond to cast a star-studded ad? 

You see, we live in the age of social media So we now have the ability to follow celebrities online. In the past, you had to wait until some scandal came out in a gossip magazine; now, they have become part of our everyday lives. 

They feel familiar, and their reach is huge. Having a celebrity in your ad means that your brand will feel familiar to their fanbase. Your brand will be linked with that person and fan culture will do the rest. 

Big names also increase your visibility. This works more for smaller or newer brands, but the basics of it are simple. Having someone famous, who people often search for online or on social media, will mean that more people will become aware of your brand


What are the risks of celebrity advertising? 

Every ad campaign has risks. There is a risk of going over budget, not going out on time or just plain falling flat. When celebrities get involved, the risks become a bit more nuanced:

Public Image

The moment you use a celebrity for an ad, their public image becomes directly intertwined with your public image. If they do something that blows up their public image, your brand will get hit by some of the debris and, ultimately, be a casualty

That is probably why just about every endorsement agreement has a morality clause. Nevertheless, we all know that humans are unpredictable and you never know what might be less okay to cancel culture.  


For Celebrity's Sake

When a brand uses a celebrity in an ad the celebrity needs to fit the brand image and the message of the ad

Every once in a while, a brand will use a famous face just for the sake of using someone famous. The ad will end up doing damage to the brand and the celebrity can overshadow the brand and message completely.

No brand wants to recreate the Kendal Jenner Pepsi situation of 2017


How can brands use celebrity advertising the right way? 


Be Current

Celebrities are very ingrained in current events and pop culture. Use the current buzz or situations surrounding that person to work for your brand

In May of this year, Brooks Running launched an ad and campaign featuring actor Jeremy Renner. The ad talks about the near-fatal accident the actor suffered in January of 2023.

The accident made global news and ever since, people all over the world have invested in watching him recover and regain his strength. With Renner getting back into acting, his story inspires a lot of people.

The Brooks ad mentions that Brooks sent Renner shoes to help him with his recovery, with footage of him wearing the shoes as he starts to recover and ultimately being able to run again — in Brooks Running shoes

Why does this ad work? Because of the timing. Renner's accident was so widely reported that his return to the big and small screen is major news. If the ad came out too early, the ad might not have been as hopeful and positive. If they waited a little longer, the story might have been irrelevant. 


Choose the Right Person

Just having someone famous in your ad is not going to work. The celeb that ultimately makes it into your ad needs to be a good fit for the brand and the image you are trying to create. 

In June of 2019, Ed Sheeran appeared in a Heinz Catchup commercial. The commercial is really and truly funny, as it tells the story of world-famous singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran going to a fancy restaurant and then putting Heinz Captchup on his super fancy meal. 

The ad is fitting because of who Sheeran is. Ed Sheeran has been very vocal and open about his humbling upbringing, and he has always maintained his normal-guy image

If the ad featured someone else who is a bit more posh like George Clooney, it wouldn't have appealed to the normal person, or have been as funny as it ended up being. 

Choose a celebrity with an image that fits your brand’s values and image, then create an ad that highlights that shared image


Have a Specific Message

Have you ever seen a commercial where a celebrity basically just smiles while wearing a product and wondered, is that it? Is the fact that they had a big enough budget to get this person to appear in the two-minute ad supposed to convince me

Nike managed to get it right with their ‘I Feel Pretty’ ad in 2006. The celebrity they used was international tennis champion, Maria Sharapova

Sharapova was widely known for being a beautiful woman. The ad used it. It showed her getting ready for a big match, with every person she passes singing a line from the song I Feel Pretty as a reference to her obvious beauty. 

At the end of the ad, Sharapova returns her opponent's serve with extreme force, hitting a very impressive shot and letting out a classic Sharapova scream. The crowd goes silent and the camera focuses on Sharapova's game face

The message of the ad is that she is more than her beauty, she is a strong and powerful tennis player, and that is why Nike sponsors her. Women all over the world, especially women in sports, truly resonated with the message the ad conveyed using Maria Sharapova. 

When a brand knows what they are doing and is aware of the risks, using a celebrity can lead to Osar-level success.


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*Image courtesy of Canva