NEW YORK: Understanding the extent of celebrity “worship” among a target audience can help marketers get the most of their partnerships with brand endorsers, according to a study in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

Aditya Shankar Mishra (ICFAI Business School, Hyderabad, India) and Subhadip Roy (Indian Institute of Management Udaipur) discussed this subject in their paper, The Dual Entertainment Theory in Celebrity Endorsements: The Role of Celebrity Worship and Profession.

Celebrity “worship”, they argued, typically results from a “search for a social identity and social role” among certain consumers, and often involves a “light form of fantasy … to escape and avoid boredom” on the part of these individuals.

“Worshippers ardently follow celebrity news, discuss the celebrity with like-minded people, and feel joy or sorrow in the celebrity’s success or failures,” the authors added.

Non-worshippers, by contrast, “lack the pursuit of personal identification with the celebrity. Their wish to engage with the celebrity is mainly driven by participation in light-hearted activities”.

Using qualitative and quantitative studies – including online polls in India and the UK – the scholars found a celebrity’s profession shapes consumer perceptions and should be a factor in assessing their “fit” with a product.

“The study implies that celebrities from more glamorous professions, such as film actors, are perceived differently than celebrities from performance-oriented professions, such as sports.

“Whereas aspirational motive was more important for a sports celebrity, the playful motive was more relevant for a movie celebrity.”

Another core finding was that dividing “celebrity followers … into levels depending on their worship status” can assist in developing powerful campaign strategies in various ways.

“For example, an endorsement strategy aimed at playful motives that uses celebrity fantasy as imagery might not work for an existing brand when the non-worshippers are the target audience,” the authors wrote.

The scale of a celebrity’s fame may also determine their impact for a brand, the analysis revealed. A global sports star, for instance, can generate a “celebrity-fantasy-driven brand attitude” that a local star may not.

Overall, the academics concluded: “The effect of celebrity endorsements on consumers might be generalizable to some extent, whereas the final outcome (i.e., brand attitudes) might be dependent on the celebrity profession and brand novelty.”

Celebrity Endorsements: The Role of Celebrity Worship and Profession appears as a part of a special “What We Know About Celebrity Endorsement in Advertising” section in the Journal of Advertising Research.

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff