Do Celebrity Endorsements Work?

Daryl Hannah LIEbrary

A quick overview for those of you who are not too familiar with Outset Media.  Outset Media designs and produces its own board games, card games, and jigsaw puzzles, which are distributed worldwide.  However, we also act as the Canadian distributor for several toy companies.  One of these companies is MindWare – makers of the hugely popular and award-winning game Qwirkle.  I will get back to Qwirkle later in my blog.

Celebrity endorsements are common in many industries.  Why?  Celebrity endorsements are an easy way for companies to build awareness and trust in their brands.  Celebrities are often viewed as being more trustworthy than ordinary people.  Additionally, a good celebrity endorsement can boost media coverage and enhance a traditional advertising campaign.

But would a celebrity endorsement work on a board game?

I recently heard about a board game created by Hollywood actress Daryl Hannah and was intrigued.  After a thorough search on BoardGameGeek.com, I discovered that Daryl Hannah was actually the author of four board games – Love It or Hate It, LIEbrary, Famous Last Lines, and Call-It.  Daryl Hannah had even made an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show promoting one of her games.

Assuming that a celebrity directly involved with a brand would be more effective than a paid celebrity endorsement (as the celebrity would have a vested interest in promoting the brand), one would expect that these four aforementioned games would have been successful.  If we equate the number of rankings with the overall success of a game, a quick search on BoardGameGeek.com reveals that Love It or Hate It, LIEbrary, Famous Last Lines, and Call-It have received 6 rankings, 67 rankings, 1 ranking, and 4 rankings respectively.  Compare this with Outset Media’s top reviewed game MindTrap, with 1079 rankings.  And… we’ve never made an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show!

Before I move on, I should mention that all four of Daryl Hannah’s board games have been well received by reviewers.  I have not personally played them, but they all look professionally designed and fun to play.  Daryl Hannah obviously enjoys board games, which is great to see.

Does this mean celebrity endorsements do not work on board games?

Wil Wheaton is best known to most people for his roles on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the classic film Stand by Me, and his cameo appearances on the sitcom The Big Bang Theory.  But to those of us in the board game business, he is best known for his web series TableTop, where he reviews traditional board games and card games, which he plays with his guests.

A review on TableTop has an immediate and measurable impact on sales.  This phenomenon has been dubbed the “Wheaton Effect”.  Needless to say, a review by Wil Wheaton is highly sought after by game publishers.

Wil Wheaton has over 2 million followers on Twitter.  Last month, Wil Wheaton tweeted “Turns out Qwirkle is a really fun #Tabletop game”.  We had calls from retailers that very day asking about Qwirkle.  And earlier this month, Wil Wheaton tweeted again, this time announcing that Qwirkle would be reviewed on an upcoming edition of TableTop.  It will be very interesting to see the impact on Qwirkle when this edition of TableTop is finally aired.

Does this mean celebrity endorsements do indeed work for board games?

I guess the answer is sometimes “yes” and sometimes “no”.  The celebrity must fit the brand.  Phil Mickelson may be a valuable spokesman for Rolex, Callaway, and the accounting firm KPMG.  But he would not be a wise choice to promote a family board game.

And in case you were wondering, as of this morning, Qwirkle had an amazing 4,139 rankings on BoardGameGeek.com.

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