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Using a celebrity to endorse a product or service is a common practice for advertisers in hopes to use the celebrity’s star appeal to draw potential customers to the brand. But if customers don’t remember the ad, is the expense worth it?

According to a study by professors from University of Arkansas and Louisiana State University, some ads featuring celebrities aren’t as memorable to consumers, especially when the celebrity endorses more than one product.

Connecting what the celebrity is famous for to the brand being advertised had an impact on how memorable the ad was.

Ads where the product and celebrity had a natural connection (like LeBron James in an ad for a sports drink) were more memorable. Ads where the product and celebrity had a connection that didn’t make a lot of sense (like LeBron James in an ad for fast food) were also memorable.

Since consumers may expect a professional athlete to drink a sports drink, they are more likely to remember it. Conversely, since consumers wouldn’t expect a professional athlete to eat a lot of fast food, they remember that ad as well.

Ads where the celebrity and the product or services are unrelated but not necessarily disconnected (like LeBron James for an insurance company) were more likely to be forgotten. Consumers don’t naturally link an athlete with insurance, but it isn’t as disconnected as fast food.

When shown two ads for two different brands that feature the same celebrity, respondents were more likely to remember the really connected or disconnected brands.

The study used fictitious advertisements featuring David Beckham to test the memorability of various ads. Products that were very connected or disconnected to Beckham (a sports drink and a baseball bat) made such an impression on viewers that they were more likely to forget the brand of the moderately connected product (a camera) despite Beckham’s presence.

Findings from the study indicated that companies and marketers should carefully consider the connection between their brand and a celebrity before creating a campaign.

The study, “Should We Hire David Beckham to Endorse our Brand? Contextual Interference and Consumer Memory for Brands in a Celebrity’s Endorsement Portfolio,” was published in Psychology and Marketing.

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