Some celebrities today are almost synonymous with the charity organisations they support. Former game show host Bob Barker is well-known for his support of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Barker ended every show of The Price is Right urging people to “spay or neuter your pet.”
Elton John is known for his support of the AIDS Foundation, while Matt Damon started his own organisation called H2O Africa and advocates for Onexone. Bill Gates is known for his global effort to irradicate malaria.
Celebrities and charities enjoy a naturally symbiotic relationship because both have a lot to offer each other. Doing good deeds helps celebrities burnish their images. True, sometimes this can seem self-serving. For example, Pamela Anderson is said to have contacted PETA to offer her support so that she could “have something else to talk about in interviews.” However, Anderson is the owner of two dogs rescued from shelters and genuinely loves animals.
The bottom line is that a charity can bolster its effort to raise money and perform good works when it can draft off the fame of a popular public figure.
Although the celebrity-charity connection predates what today is recognised as influence marketing, the two are closely related. Private industry and charities alike have long recognised the power of celebrities to motivate a mass audience to perform or adopt a certain behaviour.
For example, when Clark Gable removed his shirt in the 1934 movie “It Happened One Night,” the audience noticed he was not wearing a t-shirt under his dress shirt. Shortly after, sales of men’s t-shirts plummeted across the nation. Up until then, it was simply standard practice for all men to wear a t-shirt all the time.
Clever marketers realised that if one man in one movie could tank an entire industry overnight –- such a figure may also be able to do the opposite. That led to the practice of product placement branding in movies and TV shows.
Today, it’s “influencers” on social media sites, especially Instagram, that can move massive amounts of products if celebrities are seen using them.
Thus, when celebrities lend their public image power to charities, it tends to drive people to seek more information about that charity or donate money at the urging of a media figure they admire.