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Who endorses whom? Meanings transfer in celebrity endorsement

Elina Halonen‐Knight (Market Research Consultant, London, UK)
Leila Hurmerinta (Turku School of Economics, Turku, Finland)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 21 September 2010




Celebrity endorsement is one of the most popular forms of marketing, and this study aims to suggest that celebrity endorsement should be considered as a brand alliance, where meanings and values can transfer from either partner to the other. This paper seeks to report on an exploratory attempt to identify the processes involved and explore whether celebrity endorsement should be considered a brand alliance.


After a review of both celebrity endorsement and brand alliance literature, a case of meaning transfer process was examined. The collaboration between Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver was studied as a case, within which a special episode of negative publicity emerged and was analysed through newspaper articles.


A model for a reciprocal meaning transfer process is proposed and the existence of a brand‐alliance‐like relationship in the case is established.


The paper is the first qualitative study to examine meaning transfer process in a real life celebrity endorsement context. It indicates the need for managing celebrity endorsement as a brand alliance by suggesting that celebrity endorsement should be considered as an alliance of equals. A model illustrated and supported by a case study is proposed.



Halonen‐Knight, E. and Hurmerinta, L. (2010), "Who endorses whom? Meanings transfer in celebrity endorsement", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 19 No. 6, pp. 452-460.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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