Celebrity partnerships with charities "generally ineffective"

Celebrities are failing to raise the profile of charitable causes they endorse, according to research carried out by British academics.

Unicef: Defended the use of celebrities (Credit: David Alexanian)
Unicef: Defended the use of celebrities (Credit: David Alexanian)

A trio of UK academics have questioned use of celebrities by charities, with one dubbing the tactic "generally ineffective". 

A survey of more than 1000 people revealed that 66 per cent of those questioned were unable to link a celebrity with a list of seven prominent charities. 

However the research, published in the International Journal of Cultural Studies today, indicated that the celebrity’s own profile was often raised instead. 

Commenting on the findings from their survey, Professor Dan Brockington of the University of Manchester and Professor Spensor Henson at the University of Sussex, wrote:  

"Our survey found that that while awareness of major NGOs’ brands was high, awareness of celebrity advocates for those brands was low."

They went on to add: "Regardless of what celebrities may want in terms of publicity – and the interviews suggest that many would seek to maximise the attention given to their cause, and not to them – it is clear that the celebrity can often do better out of this attention than their causes." 

In another piece of research also published in the journal, the University of East Anglia's Dr Martin Scott also pointed to flaws in the role of celebrity endorsement. 

The study looked at the public's perception of devleoping countries by asking them to note details of their exposure to information about such countries. 

Scott wrote: "Oversll, the results of this research suggest that celebrities are generally ineffective in cultivating a cosmopolitan engagement with distant suffering." 

However, Jane Cooper, Unicef UK director of comms, defended the use of celebrities.

She highlighted the charity’s work with actor Tom Hiddleston, in which she claimed a group of his fans calling themselves ‘Hiddlestoners Have Heart’ spontaneously set up their own online donation page, and raised more than £30,000 for Unicef in the process. 

Celebrities had "a unique ability to reach millions of people, many of whom may not normally be engaged on the suffering of the world’s children," she added. 

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