Sharing the Spotlight: What do celebrity endorsements bring to a brand?
We Americans love our celebrities – entertainment, sports, business – whatever their field of fame, we love to watch and connect with high-profile personalities. Which makes it easy to see why companies love turning to celebrity partners to secure recognition, credibility and cachet for their brand through affiliation with a famous face.
When done right, a celebrity endorser can be a great marketing partner. But sometimes you have to wonder about the conversation that ended with “great idea – let’s go with that guy!” As much as I enjoy Henry Winkler’s performance on Royal Pains, does anyone really think I’m going to make a decision on financial products based on his comments?
Choosing an endorser has to be based on more than the COO’s crush on Beyoncé. It’s a decision to be made carefully with thought to audience, appeal, potential risks and goals. Am I looking for a quick hit of visibility for a short-term message? Or will this be a partnership that will support my brand for years?
When selecting an endorser for your brand, success lies in the alignment of your brand’s values and the values of your chosen endorser.
Does this potential spokesperson have attributes that you want to be applied to your brand? Are the key descriptors of your brand consistent with the key descriptors of your endorser? If not, then the partnership won’t ring true in the short term, and won’t serve you optimally in the long term.
Doing it right
One financial services company that’s doing it right is BankPlus. The bank has built a reputation for being a smart, savvy community bank – still strong and still independent in an age of bank consolidation.
Headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi, BankPlus has maintained visibility through the tough recession years, and is poised to take advantage of a recovering economy.
When the organization looked to partner with a celebrity endorser, they considered the key attributes and values of the organization:
- Hard work and over-delivery of services
- Commitment to community development and giving back
- Approachable, welcoming people
- Deep roots in their state
The BankPlus/Manning partnership
The celebrities BankPlus selected for its Mississippi-based marketing are Archie and Eli Manning. Since 2004, the partnership between BankPlus and the Mannings has worked well because these celebrities are delivering more than just recognition. Their reputations and behaviors are an excellent fit with the BankPlus brand attributes.
- BankPlus Brand: Over-delivering on services
Drive-thrus open 12 hours a day and industry-leading mobile technology are examples of the bank’s commitment to working hard to over-deliver on the services that matter to customers.
Manning Brand: Archie and Eli are both known for hard work and doing what it takes behind the scenes to prepare for game day.
- BankPlus Brand: Giving back to the community
BankPlus gives a percentage of its profits back to its communities through gifts, sponsorships and financial recovery/literacy programs.
Manning Brand: Along with the family’s reputation of “giving back,” there is the Eli Manning Clinic at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital. Archie, Eli and family have supported years of fundraising for this children’s hospital.
- BankPlus Brand: Approachable, welcoming people.
BankPlus takes its mission seriously, but never itself.
Manning Brand: Year after year, through all of their achievements, the Mannings continue to demonstrate that they don’t take their success for granted, and don’t consider themselves any different from the rest of their friends and neighbors. This is borne out when you meet them – whether at a celebrity event, or on the streets of Oxford with the family.
- BankPlus Brand: Deep roots in Mississippi
BankPlus is the largest privately-owned bank in Mississippi, and has chosen to keep their business focused within the state.
Manning Brand: Archie is a Mississippi native who met and married his Mississippi-born wife, Olivia, while attending the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in Oxford. While Eli was born in New Orleans, he followed in his father’s footsteps delivering a record-setting college career at Ole Miss. Today, Eli maintains a home in Oxford where his family lives during the Giants’ off-season.
Alignment of values supports growth
For the first few years of the agreement, the father and son pair appeared primarily as a two-man celebrity team, touting BankPlus products and providing viewers with a light-hearted approach that reflected the bank’s – and the Mannings’ – belief that you should take your work seriously, but not yourself.
Over the years, Eli’s career, reputation and public persona have expanded, allowing BankPlus to feature Eli’s personality and skills in solo outings that feature. In the same way, Archie’s reputation has expanded to encompass an even more statesman-like image, allowing him to represent not only the perspective of a hardworking, gifted athlete, but also a respected businessman and community leader. His more serious spots allowed him to shine and focus on the bank’s products in a more heartfelt way. And still the endorsements ring true – because the values are genuine.
2014 will mark the tenth year of the BankPlus/Archie-Eli partnership. What began as a three-year deal in 2004 has been extended repeatedly over the years in a partnership that continues to serve the BankPlus brand. This long and successful partnership is a testament, not only to the gifts of these two athletes, but also to the power of celebrity partnerships that align the values of celebrity and business brands.
Wynn Saggus, Vice President/Group Account Director at The Ramey Agency