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, January 29, 2015

High status-admirer altercast technique: The importance of expertise

This “Healthy Protein” advert features the Olympic and World champion, Mo Farah, explaining how training a lot and eating right – including lots of protein (Quorn, in particular) – are key factors in his success.

The persuasive technique that Quorn is using here is high status-admirer altercast technique, which is based on the idea that individuals at the top of the status hierarchy possess a great degree of influence. Using Mo Farah, admired by many, as an endorser of the product helps to persuade the audience to purchase the product as the consumer makes a “secondary association” of the celebrity with the brand (Keller, 1993). Furthermore, Mo Farah is likely to be viewed as an individual with high expertise and knowledge in the area of fitness and health, making him more persuasive to the target audience.

A study carried out by Till and Busler (1998) looked at the role of expertise in affecting attitudes towards the endorsed brand. They wanted to test the “match-up hypothesis” (Kamins, 1990), which suggests that endorsers are more effective when there is a “fit” between the endorser and the endorsed product. E.g. there is a better “fit” between an athlete and an athletic product than between an athlete and a non-athletic product.

Participants were provided with a set of materials describing a particular product (either a chocolate or energy bar), and information about the endorser of the product (that he was either a “stage and screen actor” or a “US Olympic track and field athlete”). The endorser was actually fictitious and created for experimental purposes.  Thus, there were 4 conditions (athlete/energy bar, athlete/chocolate bar, actor/energy bar, actor/chocolate bar). Participants randomly received one of the four different versions of the materials, and after viewing them, filled out questions regarding their attitudes, purchase intent and endorser evaluation.

Table 1 presents the expertise means by condition. As expected, there was an endorser (actor or athlete) by product (chocolate or energy bar) interaction, such that the athlete/energy bar combination resulted in the greatest rating on endorser expertise.  

Table 1. Evaluation of endorser means and standard deviations. 

Table 2 presents the means for subject’s attitude towards the product and purchase intent by condition. Attitude ratings towards the product in the athlete/energy bar condition were significantly higher than the ratings in the athlete/candy bar condition. The same pattern occurred for ratings of purchase intent; those in the athlete/energy bar condition were more likely to purchase the product than those in the athlete/candy bar condition. Similarly, ratings for the actor/candy bar were higher than ratings in the actor/energy bar condition in measures of attitude and purchase intent.   Thus, there was a match-up effect based on the expertise of the endorser, suggesting that expertise is an important factor when matching endorsers with brands.

Table 2. Brand attitude and purchase intent means and standard deviations. 

Therefore, Quorn have done a good job of using a well-known and admired athlete, with high expertise, to sell their product promoting a healthy eating product. People are more likely to have a positive attitude toward the product and purchase it, given his knowledge and expertise within the field of health and fitness.  


Till, B. D., & Busler, M. (1998). Matching products with endorsers: attractiveness versus expertise. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 15(6), 576-586.

Kamins, M. A. (1990). An investigation into the ‘match-up’ hypothesis in celebrity advertising: when beauty may be only skin deep. Journal of Advertising, 19(1), 4-13.

Keller, K. L. (1993). Conceptualizing, Measuring, and Managing Customer-Based Brand Equity. Journal of Marketing 57, 1-22.


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