Corporate Eye

Celebrity Brand Endorsers Can Still Give Brands a Positive Sales Lift

sofia vergara cover girlResearch has shown again and again that celebrity brand endorsers don’t typically drive brand sales, but there are always exceptions to every rule. In a recent study, Women at NBCUniversal determined that several celebrity endorsers are making a positive impact on a number of brands. What will surprise you even more is who those celebrities are and which brands they’re pitching.

Women at NBCU used its Brand Power Index (BPI) to track 500 brands between August to December 2011 that are most talked about by women. The results of the study are based on a compilation of online search data, social media buzz, and person-to-person interviews. The celebrity endorsers and the brands they pitched that had the biggest impact on female consumers and got the most buzz from women were:

  1. Maria Aragon for Gap: Gap jumped up 49 spots on the Brand Power Index with the help of the 11 year-old YouTube star singing “I Want Candy” in the company’s holiday commercial.
  2. Selena Gomez, David Hasselhoff, and Cookie Monster for Kinect for Xbox 360: With this ensemble cast of diverse celebrity endorsers pitching a variety of Kinect products, the brand climbed 119 places on the Brand Power Index.
  3. Sofia Vergara for Diet Pepsi, Kmart, and Cover Girl: Sofia Vergara endorsed three brands during the holiday season and all three of them moved significantly up on the Brand Power Index — Diet Pepsi jumped 49 places; Kmart increased 29 places; and Cover Girl experienced a 37 spot increase.
  4. Ty Burrell for Minute Maid: In a continuation of Minute Maid’s “Beta male persona” commercials that began in 2010, Ty Burrell helped the brand jump 121 places on the Brand Power Index.
  5. Jon Bon Jovi for Advil: Sharing his personal story of chronic pain and how Advil helped him relieve some of that pain, the rock star helped the Advil brand rise in the Brand Power Index.

While these brand experienced a positive lift in buzz among the important female consumer audience in late 2011, the question is whether expensive celebrity endorsements drive the required ROI and whether that lift can be sustained. Every brand wants to raise awareness, increase positive sentiment, and drive buzz, but if that buzz doesn’t translate into sales at some point, then additional investments will need to be made to turn buzz into sales.

The lesson to learn from the Women at NBCU study is simple. Celebrity endorsers can have a positive effect on brand buzz and sales. However, this is an area where you need to tread carefully. Celebrity endorsers aren’t cheap and their reputations can change in a split second. Just ask Pepsi who learned that lesson when it ended its relationship with Madonna. That’s not the first or last time a celebrity endorser and brand had to part ways at the brand’s expense, and that’s not a road you want your brand to have to travel.

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.