The influence of celebrities in politics has long been underestimated in political science and political communications disciplines. This research explores the effectiveness of two types of celebrity activism—celebrity advocacy and celebrity endorsements—to determine which type produces broader and more focused media coverage. Through case study analysis, this essay finds that although celebrity advocates and celebrity endorsers generate similarly broad media coverage, celebrity advocates generate media coverage that is more focused on their cause. In addition, by taking into consideration celebrities’ gender, race, and the political leaning of the cause advocated or endorsed by the celebrity, the research finds that all three variables also affect the breadth and the focus of the media coverage, but more quantitative research is required to confirm a causal relationship. This research has important implications for governmental and non-governmental actors engaging with celebrity endorsers and celebrity advocates—while both are equally capable of generating broad media coverage, celebrity advocates are better suited to retaining the focus of the media coverage on the cause, and not themselves.

Keywords - celebrity politics, celebrity activism, celebrity advocacy, celebrity endorsement, strategic communications, strategic communication

About the Author: Donara Barojan is a founder of a civic technology start-up, Polltix. She holds an MA in Strategic Communications from King’s College London.