Celebrities As Brand Shields: The Role of Parasocial Relationships in Dampening Negative Consequences from Brand Transgressions

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Past research has delineated the use of celebrity endorsements as an effective marketing strategy that bolsters brand image and stimulates purchase intentions. However, there is a paucity of research investigating the role of celebrities in brand transgression contexts. Across two experimental studies, we examine whether and how celebrity endorsers influence consumers’ reactions toward an endorsed brand following a transgression. Grounded in parasocial interaction theory, the findings reveal that parasocial relationships bolster brand trust and brand forgiveness through brand self-congruity. Moreover, we identify the impacts of transgression controllability and endorsement timing on brand outcomes (brand trust and brand forgiveness). Specifically, we find that celebrity endorsements can buffer negative impacts of a brand transgression; however, employing celebrity endorsement after a controllable brand transgression may be ineffective and possibly even counterproductive. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

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Journal of Advertising