Celebrities are used to move a lot of product in the US, and globally. They endorse liquors, clothing, phones, cars, political causes, and even other celebrities. As the events of this past week demonstrate, though, celebrities, including barrier-shattering athletes like Tiger Woods, are just human. They make mistakes – embarrassing and painful ones for both their families and the brands that they endorse.
This doesn't necessarily mean Woods, or any of the other celebs whom have at some point been tainted by a human error during their public careers – Britney Spears, Michael Phelps, Miley Cyrus – are no longer worthy of these endorsements. Woods has apologized, and the American consumer has seen this family tragedy and philandering behavior from its idols (even presidents) in the past. In fact, so far, none of Woods' sponsors have dropped him.
The bigger question at this junction is why do we continue to rely on celebrities to shill so much product? Certainly securing a high-profile figure for an event will draw a crowd, and we won't deny that if you want to sell a pair of basketball shoes to youth, an NBA player might be a good bet. But considering all that the marketing industry has learned about the superiority of word of mouth in recent years, combined with the powerful new peer-to-peer tools that have been discovered in social media, it's almost embarrassing how often celebrities are used to do the relationship building.
A celebrity has the potential to draw instant recognition and to associate your product or organization with a certain personality, but consider if that money might be spent better elsewhere, particularly given that those personalities are fickle and because there might be more important peer-to-peer influencer elsewhere. Does anybody really drink Gatorade because Tiger does on TV? No, they probably drink it because they like it; it's a brand that's been around for a little while, so they trust it; and they feel healthy and sporty drinking it because the marketer has done a good job associating it with sports. A well-known brand no longer needs the huge celebrity endorser. They need to be on the ground – perhaps sponsoring little league, youth soccer, etc.
Celebrities will continue to sell magazine covers, and many other things, but rethink the need to add one to your next marketing plan.