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Using an Endorser: Best Practices

116 & West

When executed well, using an endorser or celebrity spokesperson can be a great way to achieve brand lift. Contracting with an endorser leverages their platform and reputation (good or bad), associating their brand with yours. For large companies, announcing a new endorser can even cause stock prices to shift.

How do you pick the right endorser? While contracting with any influencer carries some degree of risk, smart partnerships could mean great outcomes for your brand. The following discussion highlights some famous endorsements from which we can all take notes.

Making your product famous

Early endorsements came from baseball players and Hollywood starlets, adorning the pages of magazine ads and newspapers to the packaging of chewing tobacco and soda cans. Today’s endorsements are a whole new ball game. With social media’s reach, signing a celebrity endorser means tapping into a new following, putting your message in front of potentially millions of prospects. When Estee Lauder signed Kendall Jenner in 2014, the cosmetics company broadened its audience from a traditionally mature customer to a younger demographic. Partnerships like these can help brands strategically target a new segment.

Consider endorsements by Shaquille O’Neal. We quickly think of Shaq as the face of Icy Hot and Gold Bond, and many of us recall his TV ads for Burger King and Taco Bell. But the former NBA All-Star has also backed a wild range of other products, like Buick, Vitaminwater, Nestle Crunch, Dove for Men—everything from Apollo Jets to Zales. His athletic success, celebrity status, and notable sense of humor have made him an attractive spokesperson across an array of brands. What are the best ways to choose and work with an endorser?

Here are a few tips for optimizing an endorsement:

  1. Their following should be your target. When you sign an endorser, you’re essentially paying to target their audience as your audience. Their fan following should represent the audience you intend to target. For food and beverage producers, that relevant audience may be a massive segment of the population. PepsiCo has used numerous athletes and music artists to represent its brand, capitalizing on leading influencers of upcoming generations, including Michael Jackson, David Beckham, and Beyoncé. Hit it, Britney.
  2. Make it believable. Even though the audience knows it’s a paid ad, the product should feel natural for the person to be endorsing. Should a rising young pop star be endorsing a credit score report company? Probably not. Lincoln does this nicely with Matthew McConaughey.
  3. Play to their personality. What are they famous for? Can you highlight their strengths? Or can you laugh with them at weaknesses? Jessica Simpson got plenty of criticism for her “dumb blonde” moments in the early 2000s, but those ditzy lines earned her a contract with Pizza Hut. Tim Tebow’s lack of an NFL contract made him the storyline of T-Mobile’s no-contract campaign. The point is that endorsements don’t always have to taut celebrities’ victories—they can also (delicately) poke fun at their flops, making them all the more likable.


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