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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?

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