Ad Age: Celebrity Endorsements Don’t Help—and May Even Hurt

An interesting article popped up in Ad Age this past week. It says, in effect, that celebrity endorsements are a waste of time and money, and that Tiger Woods led the list of worst pitchmen. From their summary:

Over the course of last year, time and time again we observed incredibly low effectiveness scores of TV ads starring celebrities. From Tiger Woods to Donald Trump, we found that with rare exception, celebrity endorsements were largely ineffective and failed to yield the benefits popular wisdom promises.

We set out to understand whether celebrities today are really worth the significant investment that brands were making. We studied every nationally televised ad for the first 11 months of 2010 and found that celebrity ads performed either below average or merely equaled it. Specifically, our study, 2010 Celebrity Advertisements: Exposing a Myth of Advertising Effectiveness, 2010, showed that fewer than 12% of ads using celebrities exceeded a 10% lift, and one-fifth of celebrity ads had a negative impact on advertising effectiveness.

I’m not at all surprised—especially in the golf world. As I’ve written in the past, I don’t know anyone who has ever bought a club because a particular pro had it in his bag. Even casual weekenders know that pro’s clubs are not the ones consumers can buy at the store. And every so slightly more sophisticated players know that the pro’s clubs are absolutely not suited to their games. I’ll fall over backwards in a dead faint the next time I see a Tour pro pull out an off-the-shelf, game-improvement iron with a stock shaft.

In the reverse of advertiser expectations, every golfer I know bases his club selections on impressions at demo days, club fittings and recommendations of golfing buddies (I never miss a demo day and am a frequent source of feedback for my friends). We also do a lot of club swapping at the league (yes, I know it’s against the Rules, but who cares). One guy gets a new driver and twenty guys try it off the first tee; the next week, several of them have duplicates in their bags.

I’m absolutely convinced that the major golf companies would do better if their tour staff and channeled the extra money into other promotional activities. More field reps. More demo days at more courses. And more test equipment to bloggers (like me! smile

How about this idea? Club manufacturers could set up a van at a busy local course and loan out sets for guys to try in place of their usual sticks. Put down a fully refundable deposit and take a new set on a four hour tour. Even if the player didn’t end up making a purchase, it would generate a lot of good word-of-mouth.

At PGA Tour events, company reps hover around the greens, trying to convince the pros to try their flat sticks. It’s a waste of money. Instead, I’d like to see a passel of field reps hovering around local greens with bags of putters for the players to try.

I’d like to take an informal poll here. How do YOU pick out the clubs you buy?

7 thoughts on “Ad Age: Celebrity Endorsements Don’t Help—and May Even Hurt”

  1. One of your best posts ever. I absolutely agree.

    As an aside, I was thinking over the last week about how the LPGA is doing a very poor job of marketing themselves. They still don’t have an iPhone app, which is an awful business decision. Nor do they seemingly have a version of their website for mobile phones.

    There’s so much more that they can be doing to build brand awareness.
    -Start with a reality show / documentary similar to the fascinating “24/7” on HBO.
    -Hold “Urban Golf Days” on the streets of major cities (full of goofy golf gimmicks and players, etc.).
    -Have a bigger presence at municipal courses … they could assign each member a “home course” that they have to visit 3 times a year to give demos, tell stories, etc … and have each pro be assigned to the same course (or city) for multiple years, to build relationships with that area.
    -Have an online “webisode” series.
    -Team up with Michelle Obama or Oprah or Rachael Ray to promote the fitness aspect of golf.

    They’re really just doing a bad job of promoting themselves. They need a little Bill Veeck spirit.

  2. I bought my last set because my teaching pro recommended it for my game. I couldnt tell you who plays what among the pros

  3. 1. I try to keep records of my distances and where my shots end up.

    2. I ask my course pro to evaluate my swing with the usual club-fitting tools, plus his Mk 1 eyeball. Usually it’s a ball-park on length. lie, etc.

    3. I visit a club-fitter. Kinda-sorta do the same things as #2, but also talk about physical limitations, preferences, etc. My current set is ‘custom’; not a brand name but it works for me.

    I’ve also rented clubs when visiting a course. A lot of the better courses here in the Palms Springs area have pretty good sets. Too much competition around to not afford not to. Sometimes I find a gem or two, or a club that works that I normally don’t carry.

  4. I’m on the fence on this one. Most people will say they pay no attention to endorsements, and that ay be right.

    I think that maybe high profile players are worth the money simply because it gets a logo in everyone’s face more often… that is how advertising works… the slow, soaking in of a brand’s image. Over time you get to know them simply because the logo has been burned into your psyche.


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