Sports brands and athletes have formed powerful partnerships in
the past. Adidas and Under Armour have used athlete endorsements to
great effect. Nike's partnership with Michael Jordan is well-known
and successful. These collaborations make sense to the consumer,
the athlete and the brand. They leverage the aspiration and
emotional benefits of the brand in a way that consumers enjoy.
Celebrity endorsements are common practice for all kinds of
brands, but many of these endorsements make no sense at all.
Sticking a famous face onto your packaging or into a marketing
campaign may have worked before, in a time when consumers were
passive and just accepted whatever a brand did, but today's
consumers are more aware, critical and wary of what brands do and
The evolution has begun: brands who continue to do this are just
throwing their money into a bottomless pit.
Imagine a banker trying to sell you the latest basketball shoe
by Reebok, or a lawyer advising you on what type of USN supplement
to take. The mere thought of this creates cognitive dissonance, and
yet brands believe that because Shaq eats Oreos we'll all come
running. Warren Buffet wouldn't influence my decision when
purchasing athletic apparel, but I would take his word as gold if I
were choosing an investment bank. It really is that simple. If
endorsements aren't relevant they achieve nothing. And yet they
continue to happen.
Many reasons for this exist - laziness, lack of consumer
understanding and archaic thinking. In sports-mad South Africa,
marketers love to try and force a relationship where there is no
natural reason for it to exist. During the 2010 World Cup,
for example, brands featured South African footballers in the most
bizarre settings. One worth highlighting was the Simphiwe
Tshabalala relationship with The Fish & Chips Co.: as the
When McDonald's and Lebron James pair up, or when Christiano
Ronaldo is the face of a KFC campaign, one begins to question the
insight and strategy behind such deals. And this problem doesn't
only plague fast food brands. Counter-top manufacturer Silestone
has had NBA stars appear in their adverts, Head and Shoulders is
infamous for sticking popular faces onto their campaigns.
Certainly there have been some successful campaigns which didn't
quite align, namely: The George Foreman Grill. But how many "George
Foreman Grill" cases can you count? There is room for athletes and
non-sports brands to co-exist, but it requires more thought on the
part of the marketer than just choosing someone for being
When brands can align their values, image, personality and tone
with that of an athlete who embodies these same ideals: that
connection transcends into the public with ease. Think about if
your brand were a person: the brand, consumer and endorser would
all get along well if they were left on a desert island together.
It may be an abstract idea, but it paints the reality of what a
"dream team" should be.
Nespresso did this excellently with George Clooney, Maria
Sharapova works well with Canon PowerShot digital camera, and Bill
Cosby and Jell-O were a dream team back in the day. The celebrity
endorsing your brand should embody the kind of life your brand
offers in a credible and authentic way. It should also 'feel right'
from a personality point of view. The poster boy just won't do