23 Jul 2015

Celebrity endorsement – don’t go in the wrong direction

Tom Harvey – Account Executive at Spreckley

We live in the age of celebrity; a generation where fame has become central to our society. You can’t pick up a paper, surf the internet or trawl through social media feeds without seeing what the latest media darlings have done – or not done – to capture our imaginations.

Marketing departments are increasingly picking up on this and trying to take advantage of celebrity to raise brand awareness. After all, when looking to promote a campaign to as wide an audience as possible, endorsement from renowned and respected individuals can only be a good thing, right? Giving people the capability to put a face they know and love to an organisation or campaign will allow them to relate to it, encouraging them to either buy your product or donate – what could possibly go wrong?

That seems to have been the thinking behind Save the Children’s recent campaign – Lunch Action/1D. The charity – which for decades has done fantastic work in helping tackle poverty and inequality, while also aiding developing countries – launched a new operation with everyone’s favourite squeaky clean pop stars, One Direction. The campaign took off with a touching video of the now foursome (previously five, I’m still getting over Zayn leaving) making a call to arms for change, which also came with a statement from the band to coincide with the launch, reading: “Young people really do have the power to help end poverty, tackle inequality and stop dangerous climate change.”

Now, while these are no doubt very noble causes and issues that need to be tackled, the media did seize upon one part of the statement. The band’s comment on tackling “dangerous climate change” has raised some eyebrows, particularly due to their frequent use of two private jets – oh the irony.

What started off as a marketing opportunity to promote this campaign to a large audience has been flipped on its head; the potential damage here lies in the fact that the focus can be taken away from the message to focus more on the supposed hypocrisy of the slicked-haired faces of the movement. This is the danger that presents itself when it comes to celebrity endorsements; they can come back to haunt you. It is important if you are going down this route that you can ensure that the faces you bring in reflect fully the values of your brand. Research is key; after all, no matter how big the name is, the end goal is to promote your campaign and your brand – the last thing you want is the attention being taken away from that.

This is not to say Save the Children’s campaign will stutter. When you see the teenage euphoria that One Direction create, you can imagine that this blip will not deter avid fans from standing up and taking notice. However, it does highlight that celebrity endorsement cannot just be a case of picking a pop-culture figure to shout your message from the rooftops. It’s important to check that their values represent your own and that nothing can come back to bite you or take traction away from your core message.