Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Revisiting Salt 'n' Lineker Crisps

Lineker, having fronted the Walker’s advertisements for nearly 20 years, has been paid ridiculous sums of money for the persuasive power he brings their advertisements. Advertisers know the power of celebrity endorsements, and here use them to maximum effect. Last year, blogger Emma Griffin posted ‘Gary Lineker as face of Walkers Crisps’, and the current post aims to elaborate further on the techniques used.

Emma’s post looked at High Status-Admirer Altercasting and Similarity Altercasting, meaning we aspire to be like the former England striker, whilst also trusting him as someone ‘like us’. There is, however, another aspect to advertisement campaign: Why Lineker? What does the former footballer, now broadcaster for the BBC, have to do with crips? It is unlikely that he has a secret passion for potatoes and farming, so hopefully this will shed some light on the matter.

The star chosen by Walkers has, not surprisingly, nothing directly to do with their product: they could have chosen anyone with a good, reputable household name to appear in their adverts. As we tend to deny our judgement of a product has been affected by a nearby model (Smith & Engel, 1968), it might be easier to demonstrate this with something we don’t mind admitting: a universal hatred for Justin Bieber. Anything associated with singer-turned-convict (too soon?) would be hard to sell, seeing as the average Homo sapiens would rather burn effigies of him than spend money on something his name is linked to. We begin to think of the negative traits accumulated by Bieber when we see the product, so it would have made little sense to use him in advertisement campaigns.

With this example in mind, Lineker’s friendly manner, success, clean history and other positive qualities would be transferred to the product. Via Association, when we see a packet of Walkers crisps after this advertisement, we also see the positive aspects of Lineker’s character in the bag. This was demonstrated by Smith and Engel (1968), who demonstrated that a car with a good looking model nearby lead to males rating the car as faster, more appealing, more expensive and better designed. This study further illustrates this principle with Olympic advertisement: companies often fight to be the official product of the Olympics, from sporting equipment, drinks and even tissues, as the positive connotations of the games is transferred to their product.

As the adverts don’t provide much in the way of logical reasoning to convince you to buy their products, instead relying on Lineker’s image, this is considered a peripheral route to persuasion (Petty & Cacioppo, 1981). Any attitude change is likely to be transient, but is usually more effective for the average viewer, who don’t dedicate the processing power to seriously consider whether the potatoes used makes a better crisp (Fiske & Taylor, 1984).

 The use of such a prominent figure as Gary Lineker was a wise move by the advertising agency for Walkers, giving the company a positive image to aid in sales. Despite this, as far as the success of the campaign is concerned, he is but one of many celebrities who could have filled the role successfully. It is noted, however, that whoever had the idea of changing the name of their salt and vinegar crisps to ‘Salt-n-Lineker’ in the late 90’s deserves a raise.


Stuart Miller


Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (1984). Social cognition. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co.

Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1981). Attitudes and persuasion: classic and contemporary approaches. Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown.

Smith, G. H., & Engel, R. (1968). Influence of a female model on perceived characteristics of an automobile. In Proceedings of the 76th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (Vol. 3, pp. 681-682). Van Nostrand.

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this Stuart. I too am not a Bieber fan!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.