What is it about?

News about a celebrity impacts on the thoughts and feelings of the celebrity's followers. We tested this on licensed young footballers under 20 years of age (U-20), who were emulating football celebrities, by exposing them to negative publicity about the stars they model themselves on. We presented four different bad publicity contents to young athletes, including messages on their role model celebrity's social attribute (e.g., illicit affair), moral conduct (e.g., unfair play), performance (e.g., penalty kick misses), and health (e.g., repeating injuries). Our findings showed that all of the four negative messages weakened the juvenile attachments to their celebrity role models. Moreover, we observed that young footballers did not want to use the sports gear brand that their football star was endorsing, after exposure to bad news.

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Why is it important?

Adolescents are naive, and unlike adults, they tend more to imitate celebrities. An insight into how young people respond to celebrity-engendered negative messages (CeNM) with various contents can, therefore, assist the sides of an endorsement contract in managing the meanings their alliance stimulates. This is b​ecause the nature of such partnerships leaves the door ajar for the possibility of adverse effects of celebrity misbehavior on the affiliated brand during the contract period. For example, wrestling enthusiasts probably feel sad for the increasing allegations of match-fixing and drug abuse that have cast a shadow on the popularity of the Olympic sport of wrestling among young wrestlers. Accordingly, the Olympic Committee excluded wrestling from the 2020 Tokyo Games. This decision and the reason behind it relate to our findings that misbehavior of sporting celebrities can have a negative impact not just on role-modeling young athletes, but also on the reputations of their affiliations (that is, the Olympic sport of wrestling). Besides the sport governance context, our study also provides an empirical justification for detachment decisions in the brand management context.


We enjoyed conducting this research and learned from youngsters as well. Young athletes were not always easygoing. For example, some stated they were no longer role modeling X celebrity, but Y; and few could not identify the brand their role model star was endorsing. But, we had some fun with young footballers.

Yalım Özdinç
Counties Manukau District Health Board

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This page is a summary of: Does message content matter in negative publicity? A study with young athletes emulating pros, Young Consumers Insight and Ideas for Responsible Marketers, August 2015, Emerald, DOI: 10.1108/yc-09-2014-00479.
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