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In a bid to produce and market their goods and services in the most successful manner, most business organizations resort to the use of celebrity advertising to realize their goals and objectives. This research work under took an indepth study on the use of celebrity endorsement for effective celebrity brand advertisement. The research was prompted by the need for firms to produce quality products, select celebrities that are most apprpropriate for their brands’ endorsement and also the need for them to monitor celebrities’ activities, especially considering huge amount used in enrtering into contract with the company. The selected beverage firms studied were 7Up bottling company and NBC ltd in southeast geo-political zone of Nigeria. Today most consumers are exposed to alternative products and firms strive to employ the most effective methods, strategies and programmes to ensure consumers remain loyal to their brands. In order to achieve this, the use of celebrity endorsement has become a winning formular, especially for beverage firms. Ccelebrities posess certain attributes that are transferred to the brands via endorsement .The question now is, are these qualities actually transferred through the process of endorsement, or are they just formalities without having any positive influence on their targeted consumers. This led us to formulatie objectives and hypotheses, which include, to determine the extent of perception of consumers of beverages on the use of celebrity advertising for brand endorsement; to a certain the significant relationship between the celebrity advertising and brand preference of beverage industry in Southeast; determine the extent to which celebrity endorsement influences consumers preference of firms’s brands; determine the extent to which celebrity advertising facilitate brand switch, and finally to ascertain the match of celebrity personality on the endorsed brands of the beverages in south-East Nigeria. The researcher adopted discriptive research, while primary data was collected from the respondents through the use of questionnaire, and the secondary data, was through related text books, internet material, journals, etc. Two population sizes were used, with sample size of 400 and 94 for consumers and management respectively as derived from Taro Yamane and proportionate sample sizes. The reliability test was measured using cronbach Alpha coefficient method, while T .test, PPMC and chi square were used in testing the hypotheses. Tables, simple percentages and charts were used to present and analyzed data. The result revealed that; the perception of consumers of beverages on the use of celebrity advertising for brand endorsement in south-East Nigeria was significant (F = 19.376, P< 0.05), secondly, celebrity endorsement had significant (F= 0.800, p < 0.05) relationship on consumers of a firm’s brand in southeast, thirdly, celebrity endorsement had a significant (R= 0.901, P< 0.05) influence on consumers preference of firms brand, fourthly, celebrity endorsement significantly (x= 286.16,P < 0.05) facilitated brand switch by consumers of beverages, and finally, beverage firms in southeast significantly (x= 286.16,P<0.05) choose celebrities that matched the endorsed brands. The researcher concludes that in order to influence consumes through celebrity endorsement, firms should ensure their products’ are of good quality, to gain consumers trust , monitor celebrities’s activities and also feature celebrities that match their endorsed brands, these ways, huge amount that is spend on hiring celebrities will not be a waste. The research was on beverage firms and therefore recommends that further study be made in beauty industry, which always feature mismatch adverts in their celebrity selection. Also digress to agriculture by featuring young and beautiful celebrity to feature in our agric sector.
1.1 Background of the Study The contemporary society is characterized with globalization and competition, because most consumers are exposed to alternative product and these propel business organizations to employ the most effective methods, strategies and programmes in producing and marketing their products and services. In a bid to produce and market these products successfully to attract customers’ attention, advertising campaign managers have to differentiate themselves from others to achieve this objective. The challenge of the marketer is to find the hook that will hold consumers attention. Fortunately, the use of celebrity endorsement has been found as a veritable tool and an effective strategy. Every day, consumers are exposed to thousands of images and voices on television, radio, magazine, newspapers, websites and billboards and every brand attempt to steal atleast, a person’s unsuspecting time to inform him of the amazing attribute of their brands. Nwosu (2006) also observed that contemporary society is characterize with great quantities of not just products, but brands of uncountable numbers, not just from the domestic market, but also from the globalizing market of the world. All these occur in a world with dwindling disposable income, unprecedented increase in consumer expectation, consumer movements, government tight regulation and increase in monetization of virtually all facets of human endeavor. In the face of all these, consumers are becoming more discerning than ever, and firms not only communicate to the target market, but do it in most persuasive manner to achieve the desired goal, which is a positive change in both attitude and behavior of the target audience. In this conventional time, people tend to ignore all commercials and advertisements while flipping through magazines, newspapers, or viewing television, but even then, the glamour of a celebrity seldom goes unnoticed. The use of celebrity endorsement for advertisement and its subsequent influence of a company’s brand are of great significance.Companies hire celebrities from particular fields to feature in their advertisement campaigns because these endorsers are seen as being dynamic with both attractive and likeable qualities and companies use their activities to transfer these qualities to their products, by matching the images of the products with the celebrities images, which tend to persuade consumers to fixed their choices from numerous and competing brands. Huge sum of money are invested on celebrities by companies to enable them align themselves with these endorsers whose qualities are transferred into these brands for huge profit. Furthermore, because of their fame, celebrities not only serve to create and maintain attention, but also help achieve high recall rate for these brands. No wonder, Aristotle said, “Beauty is a greater recommendation than any form of introduction” Every brand has an image and the consumer try to consume brands that have maximum fit with their personality image. The celebrity endorser fit in between these two interactions where he tries to bring the image of the product closer to the expectation of the consumer by transferring some of the cultural meanings residing in his image to the product with the purpose of entrusting these products that worked for him over to his fans. Celebrity endorsement is powerful, and this strenght is offered by the Instant awareness, knowledge about the brand and easy recall of the beauty and elegance of the celebrity endorser via the endorsement. Also Values and image of the brand is defined, highlighted and refreshed by the celebrity which add new edge and dimension, credibility, trust, association, aspiration and connectivity to brand belief, efficiency and new appearance that will result in at least, trial usage. 1.4 Statement of the Problem Celebrity endorsement is a tool for consumer exposure in the areas of information, education, and persuasion for the patronage of a firm’s products and services. Undoubtedly, the expectation of every meaningful business organization is to thrive successfully in a competitive business environment.This can only be achieved via gaining market acceptance and brand preference. Consumers always approach the market place with well defined and established sets of taste and preferences (Hoyer and Brown, 1990). This makes it difficult to position products in already flooded market. Gone are the days that producers will always say,”consumers, beware” We are in the era that consumers say,”producers beware’This is because there are so many alternative and competing brands crying out to be heard and noticed and it is only dynamic marketers who understand costomers’ supremacy can make headway in this competition and succeed. Today, consumers are educated and well informed about their needs, and firms employ the best strategies to ensure consumers prefer and remain loyal to their brands. Consumers can be manipulated by positioning what they want to see, feel or hear, at the right time, in the right place and at the best manner so as to create a positive impact in the minds of consumers. Brands with celebrity endorsement can only receive attension when such brand is perceived as having a good quality by consumers.This brings us to the first problem of this work which is inability of firms to produce quality products to boast their brand. Most marketers do not seem to care about consumers’ wellbeing when producing their products; they seem to be operating in the era of production concept, when, whatever is produced is shifted to the market for consumers, their confident is that since well celebrated celebrity will endorse the product, it must be given attension, but they seem to forget that consumers are educated and also know that these celebrites are paid huge amount of money to advertise thsee products. Although celebrities are full of cultural meanings and aura, and they also transfer this aura to the product via endorsement, it is only when a quality product is produced that this great influence can be achieved. The second problem this research seeks to solve is the problem of celebrity ‘over shadowing.’ Most celebrity advertising experience this because of lack of ‘fit’ between the celebrity, endorsed brand and the target consumers. Celebrity over shadowing occurs when the attention of the advertisement shifts from the brand to the celebrity. Many celebrity endorsements fail because marketers identify celebrities they like in an emotive and unresearched manner, and then create advertisments to force-fit the celebrities into the creative concept. Hawkins et al (2001), insist that using a celebrity unrelated to the product shift the attention of the customers to the celebrity, rather than the brand and this affect the intended message negatively. Examples can be seen in Osuofia’s mismatch adverts in some of the products he endorsed, which include; harpic toilet cleaner, Antigal antiseptic soap, Emjay tomato paste etc.In Nigera, we are gender sentitive and when a wrong gender is used, especially for advert, it shifts the attention from the brand to the celebrity and also reduces the image of the endorser, the brand and the firm. The final problem this research seeked to solve is inadequate monitoring of the celebrities’ activities to know either when the celebrities are being over used or when there is a scandal on any of these celebrities also, whether they are actually using the products they are endorsing. Over use of a particular celebrity causes celebrity trap. And this a situation where celebrity becomes an addiction for the marketing team and the task to find substitute become more difficult, leading to surfeit of celebrity. Again, if a celebrity has a scandal, the integrity of such celebrity is at risk because such scandal can be transferred to the brand, making it difficult to get consumers’ attention on such brand.Some celebrities endorse one brand and use another. Adequate monitoring has to be mounted on these celebrities, because a celebrity’s use of a competitor’s brand means the competitor’s brand has a better quality, and that’s a bridge of contrct which can cause brand switching of customers to the competitors’ brands. It is against these backdrops that the influence which celebrity endorsement has on brand preference became the focus for this research works. 1.5 Objectives of the Study The broad objective of this study is to determine the influence of celebrity endorsement on consumer’s brand preference of sellected beverage brands in southeast, Nigeria. The specific objectives however include; 1. To determine the extent of perception of beverage consumers on the use of celebrity for product endorsement in south east, Nigeria. 2. To ascertain the significant relationship between celebrity advertising and brand preference in the beverage industry in southeast, Nigeria. 3. To determine the extent to which celebrity endorsement influences consumers’ preference towards a company’s brand in southeast, Nigeria. 4. To determine the extnt to which celebrity advertising facilitates brand switch by beverages consumers in south east Nigeria. 5. To ascertain the match of celebrity personalities on the endorsed brands of beverage 1.4. Research Questions To achieve objectives of this study, answers to the following questions will be sought for: (1) To what extent do consumers of beverages in south east, Nigeria have same perception of the use of celebrity endorsement for a company’s product? (2) What is the relationship between celebrity advertising and brand preference in beverage industry in south east, Nigerian? (3) To what extent does celebrity endorsement influence consumers’ preference towards a company’s brand in south east, Nigeria? (4) To what extent can celebrity endorsement facilitate brand switch in Nigeria beverage industry? (5) To what extent is celebrity personality, a match to the endorsed brand in south east Nigeria beverage industry? 1.5. Research Hypotheses The following hypotheses were formulated and tested at 0.5 level of significance. (1) Celebrity endorsement does not significantly have same impact on consumers’ perception towards a company’s brand in south east Nigeria beverage industry. (2) Celebrity endorsement does not have any significant relationship between celebrity advertising and the endorsed brand in south east Nigeria beverage industry. (3) Celebrity endorsement does not have a significant influence on consumers’ preference towards a company’s product in south east Nigeria beverage industry. (4) Celebrity endorsement does not significantly facilitate brand switch in south east Nigeria beverage industry. (5) There is no significant relationship between the match of celebrity personality and the endorsed brand in south east Nigeria beverage industry. 1.6. Scope of the study The scope of this study is beverage industry in south east Nigeria, and the firms studied were 7 Up Bottling Company, makers of 7Up soft drink, Pepsi, Miranda, etc and Nigeria bottling Company ltd, makers of coca cola soft drink, Fanta, etc. The theoretical scope is the various influences celebrity endorsement has on consumers’ brand preference. 1.7. Significance of the Study It is imperative to carry out this study as to have a detailed understanding of the influence of celebrity endorsement on the behavior of consumers in terms of the way they prefer and choose their brands. The finding of this study will be of immense benefit to the following; the companies and their stakeholders, advertising agencies; consumers of beverage products; the government, researchers and students. The findings of this study will provide Seven-Up Bottling Company and NBC plc better ideas on how best to explore advertising techniques in positioning and repositioning their products in the minds of their customers. By this, they will be able to develop effective advert programs and also digress towards other elements, including production of quality products, selection of the most appropriate celebrity for their products, knowing when to hire celebrity, and being sensitive to know when to terminate such contract. The advertising agencies will benefit from this study because; it will give them ample opportunities to understand consumer behavior (consumer buying process and determinants of consumer behavior) and with the acquired knowledge, they will be able to match the appropriate brand with the appropriate celebrity, and also know the right appeal that influences consumers’ attitude towards the advertised brands. To the consumers, the study will provide them with the best criteria of selecting brands, among numerous alternatives. It will also provide guide to consumers, as well as enable them to be more meticulous, especially while going through the adoption process of anticipating, acquisition, actualization and accommodation. This ways, consumers become more familiar with their ideal products and probably build their brand preference based on awareness and assurance of the brand’s quality. To the researchers and students in marketing, and other related disciplines, this study will stand as a good research topic and material, if they intend to expand their frontier of knowledge. More interestingly, the findings will contribute to the existing literature in relation to the influence of celebrity endorsement and brand preference criteria by consumers. It will also bridge the existing gap in the previous findings. And in our dynamic world, this study becomes a platform for academic pursuit of excellence.