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Stars Endorsing Cars – Does It Work?

You may think that a famous face strategically placed next to a car won’t sway you in the slightest. In fact it may totally put you off the car altogether. But then why do carmakers continue to saturate us with stars unveiling cars, celebrity brand ambassadors, ads with celebrity actors and voice-overs, as well as celebrity collaborations?

This year pop-starlet Kylie Minogue is endorsing the Lexus Hybrid, in return for Lexus sponsoring her 2011 tour. Kylie is “absolutely delighted to be working with Lexus on the launch of their new full hybrid CT 200h” (which is getting poor reviews) and has been “lucky enough to have a preview of the car which is both stylish and elegant and will definitely create a Quiet Revolution”. Spoken like a true brand ambassador.

We’ve also got Uma Thurman starring in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta ads across Europe, and of course Victoria Beckham appointed as ‘Creative Design Director’ for the Range Rover Evoque.

Last year saw Shakira and SEAT team up for Shakira’s 2010 European Tour.

Justin Timberlake played the lead role in a set of mini-movies for the Audi A1, confessing he did it ‘because they paid me a lot of money’. Apparently he was hired to give ‘youth appeal’ to the brand. Autocar revealed Kelly Osbourne politely confirmed that she was ‘only there to get a free car’ at the Fiat 500 launch.

To reel off a few others; Singer Katie Melua for Vauxhall Motors, Kim Cattral (from Sex in the City) for Nissan, Freddy Flintoff (ex-cricketer) for Audi in the Middle East and Lena (Eurovision 2010 winner) as brand ambassador for Opel.

You get the picture.

This is all proof that car brands are still throwing millions of pounds at celebrities in hope that their allure will somehow rub off on their products by association. But can you really stick a B-grade celebrity next to a mediocre car and hope to do anything for it?

Whatcar recently carried out a poll asking ‘Would a celebrity’s endorsement of a car encourage you to buy it?’ The answer, a resounding No from 87% of those questioned.

Many other sources are claiming celebrity endorsements don’t work. Ad Age posted an article titled ‘Celebrities in Advertising Are Almost Always a Big Waste of Money’, with results showing that the majority of celebrity ads did not make any greater impact than non-celebrity ads, some even having a negative impact on the ads effectiveness.

They attribute this to the attitudes of today’s consumer who is increasingly likely to be influenced by someone in their social network, rather than a ‘weak celebrity connection’. We don’t want products pushed at us, even from a celebrity.

In the US, the trend for celebrity ‘micro-endorsements’ through social media is huge and the UK is set to follow, worryingly we may just be seeing the start of it!  Some are being paid as much as £10,000+ per tweet. Not bad!

The US does have rules that promoted tweets have to be preceded by the words ‘ad’ or ‘spon’, but there is no such rule yet in the UK.

Recently Land Rover recruited 40 influential trendsetters from 10 cities to collaborate with Range Rover in the launch of the Evoque. These names include Henry Holland (Fashion Designer), Daisy Lowe (Fashion Model), Dylan Jones (Editor of GQ), Ben Shepherd (Presenter) and George Lamb (TV Personality).

A spokesperson for Range Rover revealed these high profile Twitter users are loaned a Land Rover and ‘Tweet about the car’. Henry Holland proclaimed on Twitter ‘ CAN’T WAIT FOR MY NEW RANGE ROVER…!!!’, failing to mention that he’s essentially being paid to do so.

The OFT (Office of Fair Trading) have announced that they are cracking down on this trend as it is ‘deceptive’.


When carmakers do get it right, aligning the celebrity, the brand’s image and their target market correctly, they may be on to a winner. We certainly still can’t get ‘Va Va Voom’ out of our heads after Thierry Henry appeared in the ad for the Renault Clio, and this certainly influenced perception as well as contributing to sales for the brand. In fact it was so successful that they’ve resigned Thierry Henry along with Dita Von Teese and Rhianna for their new 2011 ad.

Celebrity culture doesn’t appear to be waning and celebrities do draw attention from increasingly distracted consumers. However, we can’t help thinking most of the partnerships are a little forced and contrived, will have little impact on sales and are therefore a complete waste of money

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