Britain After Brexit: The Waning Influence Of Celebrity Endorsement:

When you go to your local supermarket or chemist for  your soap, shampoo or toothpaste, which brand do you choose? And why? Perhaps it’s your familiarity with the product: It’s the one you always use, you like the smell, the texture and (in the case of the toothpaste), the taste. However – according to the columnist Deni Kirkova in the Daily Mail – it’s probable that your decision is also influenced by the recommendation of your favourite actor, singer, model or TV personality. A third of consumers in Britain, she noted (citing a survey conducted by Mirre Stallen of Erasmus University, Rotterdam) ,“admit they have bought a celebrity-endorsed product”, 66% of whom are women , 34% men and 41.2% of this total are aged between 18-24, due to the fact that younger people tend to be far more swayed by celebrity affiliation”.

Svend Hollensen, the author of a range of course-books on Global Marketing, has acknowledged that “a carefully chosen celebrity can bring additional success to a company’s advertising or merchandising campaign as well as enhancing the brand’s character”. An important way companies maximize a celebrity’s impact is “by sending them gifts or loans of their products to wear at premieres, press & TV interviews, weddings, or just to use on a daily basis”. He cautions, however, that the credibility of the endorser and hence the projection of a brand’s image can be negatively affected if the celebrity is promoting more than one product at the same time.

Many current “A-listers” would seem to fit into this category: Jennifer Lopez, for example, has links with Coty, the New York fragrance company, Gucci, L’Oreal Paris and “Tous”, a Catalan jewelry, accessories and fashion line; Emma Watson (Hermione in “Harry Potter) with Burberry & Lancome; Penelope Cruz (Lancome,L’Oreal Paris, the Spanish clothing company Mango, and Ralph Lauren); Rihanna (Gucci, Parlax Fragrances in Florida & Totes-Isotona, a footwear and umbrella manufacturer based in Ohio).

Particularly ubiquitous is David Beckham (among others: Motorola, Illinois; Coty; Giorgio Armani; Burger King, Haig Club whisky). In 2015, he appeared on advertising hoardings across the UK wearing just a pair of H&M underwear and the International Business Times estimates he will receive $160 million for his “life-time contract” with Adidas. Hollensen depicts the Beckhams as “ a joint branding effort”. At the age of 17 (he claims), Victoria’s ambition was to become “more famous than the washing powder Persil”.

Hollensen emphasizes that “most celebrity endorsement contracts now contain a “morality clause” that allows a company to drop a celebrity if warranted by inappropriate behaviour”. Two of the most publicized instances have been of Kate Moss being “dismissed” by H&M, Chanel and Burberry in 2012 for being “photographed allegedly using cocaine” and the golfer, Tiger Woods, “axed” in 2010 by Gillette, Pepsi, Accenture and the US telephone giant AT&T (though not by Nike) , after it emerged that he was not (as they had believed until then) a “faithful family man”.

More recently, Nike has suspended its $70 million contract with Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova after she tested positive for the banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January. Meanwhile, British model Alex Chung’s arrangement with Marks & Spencer would appear to be at risk, mainly because (as reported by the London Evening Standard on 7th July) her “31-piece archive collection launched in February has failed to save M&S from a “calamitous” sales collapse”.

On 21st June – just two days before the Referendum vote – David Beckham’s announced that he and his wife were in favour of remaining in the European Union. This made headlines in both the international media such as CNN and most British newspapers. The Guardian commentator, Jamie Grierson, though, expressed scepticism that it would affect the result or indeed whether anyone really cared about the Beckham’s opinion. He quoted the doubts of John Curtis, a well-known psephologist and professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde as to whether “a man who can put a ball in the corner of a net is going to make people think differently”.

Meanwhile, the “Leave” campaign, much to Victoria’s annoyance, seized on her comments in an interview with “The Spectator” magazine in 1996  that “The Euro bureaucrats are destroying every bit of national identity and individuality. Those new passports are revolting, an insult to our kingdom, our independence”.

Five days after the Referendum – on 28th July – the Irish Times journalist, Anthea McTeirman, asked the question that even the supposed “experts” in the UK were still struggling to answer: “Hey Britain, what happened?” She seemed perplexed that the British, who “can’t get enough of the Nespresso coffee endorsed by American star George Clooney or the L’Oreal face-cream recommended by the British actress Helen Mirren and queue up to buy Kate Moss’s make-up” had rejected the advice of those same celebrities whose personal lives they ardently follow every week in publications such as “New!” and “Closer”.

The actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Daisy Ridley, Keira Knightley and Daniel Craig (the current James Bond), the singers Elton John and Idris Elba, the Harry Potter author JK Rowling, the former Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand, comedians Eddie Izzard and Jo Brand (among many others) had all “begged us to stay” – but to no avail. McTierman’s only explanation was that “arguably, celebrity endorsements for remaining in the EU fell on deaf ears in the way that celebrity endorsements for shampoo don’t.”

This possible scenario was in fact predicted by The Spectator editor, Fraser Nelson, back in March. He anticipated exactly what would happen: Much of the UK population was offended at being apparently regarded by the Government as incapable of grasping the complexities of the EU and as needing to be instructed on the “correct decision” by “experts” from organizations such as the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the WTO plus Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, Angela Merkel, the Archbishop of Canterbury and other world leaders. Too late, the “Remain” politicians “found that their reverence for celebrities and the intelligentsia” was not shared by 52% of those who turned out to vote on June 23rd.

Filed under: Media, Politics | Posted on June 30th, 2016 by Colin D Gordon

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