The Effectiveness of Celebrities in Conservation Marketing
Celebrities frequently feature in advertisements to generate public interest (charitable or otherwise), and there are several theories about how to increase the effectiveness of celebrities in a campaign. For instance, it may help if the celebrity is considered knowledgeable and trustworthy, or if there is a clear and identifiable link between the celebrity and a product or service. However, the evidence on the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement is mixed, and there has been little work to evaluate how effective they actually are in the world of conservation.
In this study, 363 participants from the United Kingdom took part in an online survey. Four advertisements (treatments) were developed, each featuring a photo and quote from a different male spokesperson. Three were celebrities who had previously endorsed conservation or environmental causes – David Beckham, Chris Packham, and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge – and one was a non-celebrity: Crawford Allan, Senior Director of TRAFFIC.
Participants were randomly shown one of the four advertisements and asked whether they wanted to click on an associated link to find out more (i.e. whether or not they were willing to engage with the advert). They then completed a questionnaire, and their ability to recall the information that the advert was trying to convey was tested. Finally, they were presented with all four advertisements side by side and asked which one would make them most likely to click on the accompanying link, and why.
Overall, participants were more willing to engage with appeals featuring celebrities. The effectiveness of the celebrity was increased if participants believed that other people would be influenced by the support of the celebrity, and if a participant said that the celebrity’s statement caught their attention or that they often engage with promotional images. Interestingly, however, participants were less likely to recall an advertisement if it featured a celebrity than if it featured the non-celebrity.
Age, gender, and education level affected participants’ willingness to engage. For instance, university-educated women in their 50s would be more likely to engage with an appeal featuring Prince William compared with men in their early 20s without a degree. Participants preferred appeals featuring a celebrity if they believed he cared about, was knowledgeable about, or was known to support a specified issue.
Based on this study, deciding whether to include a celebrity in your appeal is tricky. People may be more willing to engage with your campaign in the short term by signing a petition or making a donation. However, they may be less likely to actually remember your message. Beliefs about the celebrity in question and the characteristics or your target audience will both influence the effectiveness of a celebrity endorsement.