Is a Celebrity Right for Your Challenger Brand Campaign?

February 23, 2016 | blog | By Mike Sullivan


Ad campaigns across the country employ a variety of tactics to make brands stand out with consumers in a very competitive advertising landscape. Recently, a Nielsen study showed that in the U.S. a celebrity or athlete endorsement as an ad theme ranks fairly low in popularity—between 5 to 8 percent— compared to other advertising themes, and there could be numerous factors that contribute to those numbers.

There is no question a famous face can elevate your brand and resonate with your exact demographic, but securing someone notable can cost a pretty penny, and you must prepare yourself for the inherent risks associated with aligning the credibility of your brand with a personality.

Consider the following two case studies:

You may have seen the award-winning Under Armor “I Will What I Want” campaign featuring Gisele Bündchen. AdWeek reported the success of this campaign, which resulted in 1.5 billion media impressions, $15 million in earned media, an average of four minutes spent on the campaign’s site, and an overall 28 percent sales increase for the brand. In this case, the marriage of the celebrity and the brand proved immensely successful and set the gold standard of how a celebrity campaign should be executed.

However, this isn’t always the case.

Biting Back: How To Succeed As A Challenger Brand

Subway has found itself quickly shifting gears after the conviction of their front man, Jared Fogle. Over the years, Subway had made Jared the cornerstone of their marketing and ad strategies; he even made public appearances on behalf of company. While it’s great to have a celebrity so embedded in your mission, you can fall victim to a crisis in the blink of an eye. This situation left Subway scrambling to distance themselves from Fogle and salvage their brand. The result has been a complete rebranding, which looks and feels very solid. The new campaign takes them back to their roots to rebuild a credible, relatable brand. Ad Age recently wrote about their new strategy; it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

If a celebrity is on your radar for your future challenger brand campaign, here are some things to consider:

  • Who tells your story best? Does the celebrity have a link to your product or mission? Or would a case study from a real consumer better get your message across?
  • Vet your celebrities. It’s great to have a famous face, but make sure their past marries up with the vision of your brand.
  • Have a proper crisis plan in place. No matter the celebrity, you can hit bumps in the road quickly, thanks to quick social media exposure, and you’ll want to be able to beat any comments or media requests to the punch.
  • Make sure your ad and marketing strategies are seamless and integrate all parts of the celebrity.

You must include all aspects of your brand outreach to ensure a successful campaign.

Not every ad campaign needs the red carpet treatment, so weigh the pros and cons and make sure that a celebrity endorsement is the right move for you.


Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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