By Ryan Ayers

The use of celebrity endorsements is a long-standing advertising practice.  Historically, celebrities have had a strong influence on consumer sentiments.  With the Millennial generation, however, this is changing.

Celebrities, in effect, loan out their personalities when they endorse products. When people purchase celebrity endorsed goods, they temporarily adopt the characteristics of that public figure. According to Michael Kamins, a visiting professor of Marketing in the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University and an expert on celebrity advertising, says celebrity advertising works because of the persuasive notion of “identification”. That is, consumers identify with celebrities because they in many cases, adore them. His research shows that picking popular celebrities is most impactful when their image or opinion or demographic profile fits that of the brand.

So, to showcase a new youthful product, one needs a youthful celebrity. Kamins stresses that to be successful, brands must find celebrities that are congruent with the product they sell. Advertising campaigns and celebrity reputations can falter when people choose to endorse everything and anything.

Kamins says celebrities are used in advertising to serve to:

  1. Break through the clutter in advertising as you notice the celebrity who is selling your brand.
  2. Link the affect or feeling that you fell for the celebrity onto the brand.

Ideally, the product overlaps with the fan base of the celebrity and promote sales. For example, Justin Bieber can sell Vans sneakers because he already regularly wears them. Finding the right people to promote the brand and product is key to successful celebrity advertising.

Celebrity Advertising and the Power of Star Influencers

While Millennials are still somewhat influenced by this time-tested marketing method, there are other factors that influence this generation. Nevertheless, retailers are teaming up with celebrity endorsers of all kinds more than ever. Even popular athletes are getting recognized by brands. It seems the more authentic the popular persona is, the more likely brands are able to utilize them to promote their products.

Four-time MVP Lebron James resonates powerfully with Millennials. Many millennials follow a variety of celebrities. While Hollywood stars remain popular, famous sports stars and social influencers are getting more and more popular amongst the younger generations. What works in marketing is changing, and more companies and brands are finding that to target new generations, they need personalities that connect with the people. According to this infographic made by New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Online MBA Program, athletes are more valuable to brands than any celebrity type.

Among all kinds of celebrities, athletes tend to be the most influential. Major clothing retailer Nike, sold $340 million of Lebron James branded sneakers in 2014. From there, James entered a $1 billion-dollar lifetime endorsement deal with the corporation. Nike’s collaboration with Lebron James, for example, netted the sports retailer $34.3 billion in 2017. The basketball star also uses his notoriety for societal good. In 2017, for instance, he donned white and black “Equality” sneakers while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The advertising campaign was a success!

Gatorade’s collaboration with Serena Williams was another powerful celebrity team up. Together, the duo promoted the “Sisters in Sweat” campaign. The promotion catered to young girls and encouraged them to participate in athletic activities.

Of course, the most well-known celebrity endorser of all time is Michael Jordan. In fact, he’s one of the highest-paid athletes in history. In 1984, he entered a $7 million deal with Nike. The deal paid off exceptionally well. By 2015, the Michael Jordan brand took in $2.5 billion in revenue.

Celebrities Still Have Sway Among Millennials

In recent years, corporations have developed interesting partnerships with contemporary celebrities.  No matter what the current fashion trend, celebrity endorsement always remains in style.  Still, marketers must combine celebrity endorsement with advertising best practices.

As an example, Jiggy George, founder of the celebrity endorsement company, Mojostar, saw an opportunity to capture a niche that was untapped at the time in women’s athletic clothing. To entice this audience, he recruited with Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez to successfully engage that market. George expresses that Fernandez embodies fitness, fashion and fun. Obviously, he was right.

Obviously, companies and brands need to still consider advertising and marketing tactics and develop a good strategy. However, it’s clear that celebrity endorsements of all kinds can help accelerate sales and brands. Popular celebrities are even creating their own brands and creating very successful product lines.

How Millennials Relate to Celebrity Advertising

Very soon, Millennial’s will become the heads of some of the world’s most promising enterprises. Like their predecessors, they will need to take advantage of available tools and resources for launching their endeavors.  Additionally, they’ll have to solve problems that are unique to their generation.

These executives will have to find ways to make the consumers of their generation feel respected. Corporate leaders will have to create partnerships with celebrities that consumers feel are real. The power of networking, relationship building, and influencers will continue to be key for successful advertising.

Celebrity advertising has always been popular. The way it’s being done continues to change with the rise of social media and tech. Though some millennials may not be as influenced by popular celebrities, brands must continue to evaluate what they are promoting, what they want to achieve, and what people and influencers can help get their message out to the right people. Today’s celebrity influencers must possess charm, authenticity, and be able to relate to people, hopefully, in positive ways.

Furthermore, consumer opinion has more influence than ever before. Public figures don’t need major television networks to become a star. With hard work and the right combination of talent, stars are now born online. Anyone can become a popular influencer, depending on how they market, brand, and create themselves. The Internet and rise in technology is the driving force behind this shift. Today, consumers can easily find real and relatable reviews as well as the opinions from all kinds of individuals and influencers.

Now, the Millennial generation shows their support by investing in goods that are backed by celebrities that are relatable. However, most of the new generations value purpose over the celebrity or fame. In other words, younger generations want to promote brands that are doing good for the planet. They support companies that give back, help with sustainability, and work towards resolving our current problems in society and more. Because of this, many celebrities have abandoned pure attention-seeking and are starting to voice their support for causes and movements that are important to society. This helps celebrities, companies, businesses, and more, gain millennial attention and more importantly, respect.

Modern Marketing and Advertising Requires Powerful Influential People

With media coverage of many kinds of social movements, there is a seemingly never-ending number of causes and companies to support. The most influential modern celebrities voice their opinions about social issues strongly and with conviction. The more empowered people you get to promote a cause, product, or brand, the more likely people will notice it, and enjoy it!

Much of the newer generations look up to celebrities and people who embody the life that they hope to one day, and promote causes they care about. While fantasizing and following celebrities on social media can turn into bad habits, it can also help promote valiant causes and touch more people. People connect well with causes that resonate with them. They seem to support people who impact society with a cause they care about.

If companies and businesses want to succeed in marketing, it’s imperative they find worthy and creditable and cool people who can rep their brand, promote their product, and have a similar mindset. Teaming up with other people with similar values and passions will certainly help influence the masses and create a positive social change.

Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis. You can find more from Ryan on Twitter at @TheBizTechGuru.

Celebrity stock photo by Jack Fordyce/Shutterstock