The power of celebrity is like catnip for marketers. Celebrity or athletic association adds an aspirational edge through outright paid endorsement or coveted “as seen on” editorial placement. In the world of beauty, brands from Cover Girl to L’Oreal add a sheen of glamour to their brands through celebrity spokesmodels. In the field of sports marketing, brands from Nike to Gatorade borrow equity from high-powered athletes to bolster their athletic credentials. And in retail, mass retailers from Macy’s to Sears offer eponymous product lines from celebrities as diverse as Sean Combs to the ubiquitous Kardashians. Q scores are tracked, contracts are negotiated, and millions of dollars exchange hands.  But is it worth it?  
If you ask consumers how important celebrity endorsement is to their brand selection, most will vehemently deny it. In fact, our North American Consumer Technographics® data shows that only 19% of consumers rate celebrity or athlete endorsement as important when picking a brand. But most people will probably tell you that advertising doesn’t affect them either. So we decided to dig a little deeper. Forrester conducted a driver analysis in the big-box retail category to identify which category attributes and behaviors have the most meaningful impact on key outcomes like being a more trusted or essential brand. Our research showed that in big-box retail, celebrity or athletic endorsement:
  • Is the top influencer of being essential. Being essential is a key component of having a strong brand. Our trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential (TRUE) brand compass research shows that being essential — that your brand is irreplaceable in the lives of your customers — is a key driver of brand resonance. Celebrity or athletic endorsement has a bigger impact on being essential in retail than “offering exclusive content” online or “providing a personalized service/experience.” But impact can vary by brand. For example, it plays a bigger role in being an essential brand for home improvement brands Lowe’s and Home Depot than it does for Amazon. 
  • Takes a back seat to product quality to secure brand trust. Being trusted has the biggest impact on overall brand resonance. Here celebrity endorsement has some influence but is less important than other attributes. For example, for big-box retail brands, having “products/offerings that meet my needs,” “the highest quality product/offering,” or providing “good value for the money” have a stronger impact on trust than celebrity endorsement.
What does this mean for you if you are considering a celebrity or athletic endorsement for your brand? It means you need to first identify what role you want celebrities to play in your brand building strategy. Is it to make your brand more trusted, remarkable, unmistakable or essential? Then conduct research to find out what role that endorsement plays in your category and for your brand. 
Keep a look out for more research and insight on what drives a strong TRUE brand in big-box retail in October. In the meantime, you can learn more about how the four attributes of a TRUE brand — trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential — directly influence brand preference, referral, and premium pricing and ultimately build brand resonance in the report “Navigate To A 21st Century Brand With The TRUE Brand Compass.”