Think Twice about that Endorsement

With the primaries getting into full swing, we are sure to hear a slew of endorsements for one candidate or another. Some fairly notable ones (Sen. John Kerry endorsing Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Joe Lieberman for Sen. John McCain) have come already. But endorsements are not limited to politics. In the real world, we see celebrities endorsing everything from underwear to hair color to automobiles to, yes, politicians.

The question, though, is why?

Let’s start with politics. NPR aired a story on the day of the Michigan primary probing whether political endorsements actually work. There wasn’t a definitive answer, other than “it depends”. Which means, in the big scheme of things they probably are not overly effective. It appears that endorsements tend to help the endorser when it’s time to ask for a favor down the line. They also, sometimes, help the endorsee raise some extra money. There is no research, however, showing that endorsements lead to votes.

Mike Huckabee, in a separate story on NPR that aired the next day, publicly lamented some of the support he was receiving in South Carolina. Apparently, a so-called 527 organization by the name of Common Sense initiated a push-polling campaign on his behalf, much to Mr. Huckabee’s dismay. It wasn’t the style of promotion he wanted, even if it did lead to votes.

Turning to products, consider shoes and underwear. Michael Jordan has endorsed both. When he was still playing, and even for a time after, having Jordon’s seal of approval on basketball shoes made perfect sense. Having him push t-shirts and underwear? Not so much. Someone working long hours under difficult conditions requiring comfort would go a lot further.

Peyton Manning is another one. He and Gatorade are a perfect match. I can’t say the same for Manning and MasterCard or Sprint.

Even when you have the right match between product and endorser, the individual’s life off the field can have ramifications on your bottom line. For instance, when Michael Vick was arrested as part of his dog-fighting scandal, millions of dollars invested in endorsements went down the drain.

The lesson: find the right people to endorse your products and for the right reasons, even if they aren’t celebrities. And be prepared in case good endorsers go bad.

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One Response

  1. […] an aside, when I wrote the posts “Think Twice about that Endorsement” and “A Desire for Authenticity”, I didn’t think I would be closing the loop on […]

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