The effectiveness of celebrities in conservation marketing
Celebrities are frequently used in conservation marketing as a tool to raise awareness, generate funding and effect behaviour change. The importance of evaluating effectiveness is widely recognised in both marketing and conservation but, to date, little research into the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement as a tool for conservation marketing has been published. Using a combination of interviews and an online choice survey instrument, we investigated the extent to which a sample of UK-based conservation organisations, and other charities, evaluate their own usage of celebrity endorsement, and then carried out an experimental evaluation of a hypothetical marketing campaign. This experiment compared participants' willingness-to-engage (WTE) with, and recall of, a conservation message presented in versions of an advert featuring one of three prominent UK celebrities (David Beckham, Chris Packham or HRH Prince William) or a non-celebrity control treatment (featuring Crawford Allan, a director of TRAFFIC USA). We find that the organisations we interviewed did not routinely evaluate their marketing campaigns featuring celebrities. Furthermore, our experiment provides evidence that celebrity endorsement can produce both positive and negative effects. Participants were more willing to engage when presented with an advert featuring one of the three celebrities than the non-celebrity control, and WTE varied according to the characteristics of the celebrity and the respondent. However, celebrities were less effective at generating campaign message recall than non-celebrities. These findings suggest that celebrity endorsement should be used carefully. Further work is required to fully understand the role celebrity endorsers can play in conservation but, drawing on best practice from the field of marketing, this study introduces an approach to evaluation which could be applied more widely to improve the effectiveness of conservation marketing.