Quick! Name a couple of your favorite brands! For example, what is your favorite candy? How about your favorite shoe? How about a car or soap brand? For the vast majority of us, we have our favorites. We have been using the same laundry detergent for years or using the same brand of toothpaste for decades. Consumers are funny that way. We can be extremely loyal and marketers love nothing more than when we are faithful to their brands.
Believe it or not, consumers can become so impassioned with a brand that they literally have brand passion. Yes, you read that right. In consumer behavior, we define brand passion as an emotional response which results from a brand-consumer interaction. Passion is a strong word to describe a brand, isn’t it? But, if you think about it, there are brands out there which have exceptionally strong followings. Some global brands include Apple, Amazon, Walmart, and Google. But, we can be just as passionate about brands which are not as massive like a cereal you love.
One of the oldest tactics in the book to make us love our brands even more is adding a celebrity to the mix. We know from years of research that celebrity endorsement increases credibility of the brand by way of how attractive the celebrities are and their level of expertise. This tactic of celebrity endorsement spans most all industries including sports.
But, wait! Aren’t we golfers smarter than this? We don’t fall for attractive celebrities trying to sell us our next pair of shoes, do we? Surely, we can see right through the slick marketing. We are stronger than that, right? Well, a recent study offered a few results to show us just how passionate we golfers really are. The authors surveyed golfers about iron brands. By the way, most of the survey participants were men (66%) but we will save that argument for a later time. Here are a few of the major findings.
1. Athlete attractiveness positively affects brand passion. (In other words, pretty people make the brand more loveable.)
2. Athlete expertise positively affects brand passion. (If they sound like they know what they are talking about, then our passion for the brand skyrockets.)
3. Brand passion positively affects brand loyalty. (You love it, you keep buying it.)
So, what does this mean for golfers? It means that our brand passion will increase when a star golfer endorses a brand made to use in our sport. It has worked well for a few golfers. For example, the Tiger Woods brand extended into several area including his own clothing and a sponsorship from Nike. Annika Sorenstam partners with Cutter and Buck apparel and has her own umbrella brand which houses her foundation, Academy, and other ventures. Tiger’s famous smile and Annika’s record score of 59 helped elevate the brands with which they associate. We are sucked in and before we know it, we have a Tiger hat and an Annika skort. However, it is all ok because we, as consumers, didn’t mind a bit. Passion does that. We can’t help it.
Recently, a new brand caught my eye. Lexi Thompson (LPGA) launched her own line of skincare called Lexi Skin. The teasers were on social media a few months before it was launched. Her golf bag and a few other items boast the Lexi logo. Of course, as a Lexi fan, I was intrigued. As a consumer behaviorist, I was intrigued even more.
If you are a golfer, you probably have heard of Lexi. She’s been around professional golf for a long time. She owns 11 career victories, is an Olympian, and holds all kinds of other accolades. She seems to always be hovering near the top of world rankings. Super star golfer. Attractive. Expert. Let the brand passion begin.
As our study notes, “the physical attractiveness and expertise of an athlete endorser are key factors contributing to enhancing brand passion and, in turn, brand loyalty……..and brand passion had a significant impact on brand loyalty.” But, another point they made in the study was, “marketing practitioners need to consider celebrity-product congruence rather than simply outstanding athletic performance of the potential endorser.”
Even as straight forward as this sounds, some brands have made huge mistakes as far as compatibility. For example, there was a time when Heinz (the ketchup brand) decided to produce ketchup in different colors. In the end, purple and blue ketchup didn’t sit well with anybody. Neither did Harley Davidson perfume or Colgate (known for toothpaste) frozen entrees. Tiger’s products made sense. Annika’s did, too. Does Lexi’s? According to our study, yes. Mostly.
While I didn’t initially associate this player with skin care, maybe that is just something that will take time. Believe me, marketing has a million time-based strategies that work. (You have probably said at some point, “it has grown on me.”) But, skin care and being attractive (see Finding #1 above) are certainly an easy association to make. Good skin = attractive, at least in marketing world. As far as Finding #2, there may be a bit of work to do here, because at this point, I do not associate her expertise to be in skin care. But, according to her personal website, her fitness line is on the way. Her expertise with fitness is not a stretch at all. From a consumer standpoint, it is not confusing to make this association. It is not a ketchup debacle in the making. Fitness and Lexi make total sense. Skin care? “It may grow on me.”
In the end, golfers are no better at escaping marketing strategy. Maybe this is because as much strategy as we use on the course, golfers are susceptible to a moment of weakness. All it takes is another 3-putt and we are looking for a new putter to solve the problem. We, too, have passion for our favorite brands, our favorite players, and the products they endorse or own. We golfers believe that we can be a little more like him/her by playing the same ball or wearing the same shoe. It’s how we relate to them. It makes them more like us and us like them. Afterall, we all play this game and we all know the challenges and victories it can bestow on us.
There is no question passion is found on the golf course. But, you may also find it in a jar of skin cream.
Kim, H., Lee, K., and Baek, W-Y. (2020). Effect of celebrity athlete endorsement on sporting goods consumers’ brand passion and loyalty. Social Behavior and Personality, 48(5).