Wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson’s endorsement deal with Under Armour earned top ranking among best-matched celebrity-brand partnerships in the fashion and retail sectors, according to a study from Spotted.

“Of all Fashion & Retail endorsement deals active in 2018, Under Armour had the highest-scoring endorsement deal partnering with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson,” said Spotted, a celebrity marketing company, in the report. “This partnership was not only a spectacular alignment of brand-celebrity personality match, audience match, overall brand values and consumer approval, but it also scored low in terms of risk.”

Other celebrity-endorsement deals in the active lifestyle space also rating high included Crocs’ partnership with Drew Barrymore, Under Armour and Steph Curry, Reebok and Gal Gadot, Adidas and Lionel Messi, Marmot and Nick Offerman, Adidas and Pharrell Williams and Reebok and Thierry Henry.

But Under Armour’s partnership with “The Rock” was the only one that earned a perfect score of 100.

To reach the score, the relationship earned perfect scores across four key measures:

  • Personality Match (emotion evoked): Dwayne Johnson has an “extremely high match” with Under Armour’s brand personality and values according to Spotted. Campaigns for Under Armour deliver messages such as ‘I will not be distracted’; ‘I will what I want’; ‘I will be challenged’; ‘I will not be stopped,’ all directly correlating to personality traits such as ‘Confident,’ ‘Disciplined’ and ‘Tough.’ Johnson ranked the highest in confidence and toughness, and third highest in discipline. Johnson also perfectly embodies Under Armour’s brand values of ‘Fight on together’ and ‘Celebrate the wins.’”
  • Consumer Approval (recognition, trust, authenticity): Spotted data ranks Johnson as one of the top five celebrities with the highest consumer approval, which reflects the positive impact his work and career, famously uplifting attitude and heavy engagement in charitable causes have had on the consumer perception and sentiment of him. Further breaking down his very high approval match in the 98.9th percentile, Johnson appeared in the top ten most trusted and the top five most authentic celebrities and ranked number one for Facial Recognition and in the top three for Name Recognition. Interestingly, Johnson also placed in the top 10 for voice recognition, which Spotted noted was unique, considering that most other celebrities in this top 10 category are musicians.
  • Audience Match (age, gender, household income): Johnson displays high audience alignment with Under Armour across three key demographic areas: age, gender and household income. The audiences of Johnson and Under Armour are both nearly evenly split by gender and both audiences are primarily between the ages of 25-44. The largest distribution of household income of consumers in Johnson’s audience is $50,000 to $100,000 while Under Armour’s audience is largely represented within this income bracket.
  • Risk assessment (evaluating the celebrity’s life): There are 319 scandals associated with the celebrity endorsers in the Fashion and Retail industry, but Johnson doesn’t take part in any of them. Johnson’s only controversy is admitting to using steroids during his WWE days, but Spotted data shows that his strong work ethic, positive outlook and behavior and larger dedication to making the world a better place negate the traditional public sentiment associated with steroid use among athletes. Spotted also noted that Johnson’s political affiliations are balanced, and he’s actively involved in a large number of charities, many helping children or serving to treat illnesses.

Johnson started his partnership with Under Armour in January 2016 and a Project Rock 1 sneaker released in May 2018 sold out in less than 24 hours, according to a post on Johnson’s Instagram account. He also starred in Under Armour’s “Will Finds A Way” ad campaign which launched in April.

Overall, the top 20 celebrity endorsement deals in the fashion and retail industries were:

  1. Under Armour and Dwayne Johnson – 100
  2. Tommy Hilfiger and Winnie Harlow – 97.2
  3. Crate & Barrel and Reese Witherspoon – 96.1
  4. Rag & Bone and Ashley Graham – 96
  5. Crocs and Drew Barrymore – 96
  6. Amazon and Anthony Hopkins – 95.2
  7. Hugo Boss and Chris Hemsworth – 93.1
  8. Reebok and Gal Gadot – 92.8
  9. Rolex and Roger Federer – 92.7
  10. Lord & Taylor and Christie Brinkley – 91.6
  11. DSW and Mirai Nagasu (Olympic figure skater) – 91.4
  12. Adidas and Lionel Messi – 90.6
  13. Guess and Jennifer Lopez – 90.4
  14. Under Armour and Stephen Curry – 89.2
  15. Dolce and Gabbana and Emilia Clarke – 88.6
  16. Asics and Novak Djokovic – 88.6
  17. Gap and Cher – 87.5
  18. Rolex and Jordan Spieth – 87.0
  19. Pandora and Leonie Hanne – 86.8
  20. Marmot and Nick Offerman – 86.3

Spotted said a “large portion” of the $43 billion the U.S., Fashion and Retail industry spend on advertising annually is allocated towards celebrity partnerships and campaigns. Studies have shown that ads that use celebrities get an audience’s attention more easily than standard ads do and offer opportunities for a brand to make their products memorable, the study noted.

On the other hand, the risks are high, and poor selections can result in a large loss in sales for the brand, as well as carry the frequently overlooked consequence of high risk exposure. Among relationships in the active lifestyle piece, scoring on the low end of the rankings were Adidas and Mura Masa (1.0), Reebok and Lil Yachty (11.2), Canada Goose and Drake (22.8), Under Armour and Gisele Bundchen (29.5), Puma and Kylie Jenner (32.6) and Adidas and Kendall Jenner (33.1).

The report cited three core findings:

  • Trend #1 – Over half of the industry’s endorsement deals carry a Risk Score of 50 or above, with Fendi, Adidas, Puma, Converse, Guess, H&M and Old Navy, being amongst the worst offenders for endorsement deals featuring celebrities that have recently engaged in risky behavior and have not been able to gain back the trust of the public due to the high frequency and severity of these occurrences.
  • Trend #2 – Consumers high or low approval of a celebrity was independent of their age, gender, family background, profession or number of years they’ve been active in their respective fields. The list of the top 20 most highly-approved celebrities contains a mix of actors, athletes, musicians and other professions, including names such as Anthony Hopkins, Cher, Dwayne Johnson, Drew Barrymore, Jose Altuve, Petra Nemcova, Chloe Kim among others.
  • Trend #3 – Over 75 percent of all endorsement deals in the Fashion and Retail industry suffer from low consumer approval. While the positive industry trend stated above indicates that consumers do not discriminate between different types of celebrities, and the opportunity to select the right celebrity is great, it becomes the responsibility of the brand to carefully select those celebrities that consumers most trust and most highly approve of.

The full report is here.

Photo and video courtesy Under Armour