New research from the University of Newcastle has revealed new marketing insights into the age old battle of character vs. celebrity endorsements.

Researchers Amanda Kennedy and Associate Professor Stacey Baxter conducted the research which pitted the likes of Hugh Jackman and Orlando Bloom against their well-known movie characters Wolverine from the X-Men franchise and Legolas from The Lord of the Rings franchise.

It was found that use of characters delivered all of the star power attached to a celebrity endorsement without the risk of associating with any of that persons existing or future misdemeanors.

As part of three studies on more than 500 people, researchers exposed participants to a mock advertisement featuring both Hugh Jackman as himself and as his popular character Wolverine.

“Our research showed that the associative links in our mind, referred to as ‘nodes’, which are tied to a celebrity and film differ” Ms Kennedy said.

“The nodes tied to a celebrity are generally broad, including factors relating to their personal life and any misdemeanors, while the associations tied to a film persona are tighter and are specific to that character or film.”

Participants were also shown an image of Orlando Bloom and his Lord  of the Rings character Legolas, to test the impact of celebrity indiscretions on endorsed brands.

After learning negative information about Orlando, the attitudes and purchase intentions associated with the Legolas ad remained unchanged, whereas decreased intensions to purchase were found with the ads featuring Orlando as himself.

“Celebrities are not immune to tarnishing their reputation, which can in turn have disastrous impacts on the brands they endorse. Film personas, on the other hand, are infallible and pose much less risk to brands” Ms Kennedy said.

“In light of this new research, advertisers can still reap the many benefits of using celebrities as brand endorsers, while not putting the brand at risk if celebrity misbehaves.”

The research was carried out in collaboration with Monash Business School, Monash University’s Associate Professor Jasmina Ilicic and was recently published in the journal of Psychology and Marketing.