Dr. Katie Kelting had just graduated from high school and was getting a jumpstart on her college career as she sat in orientation, waiting to enroll in summer school. When she was asked to pick a major, she deferred the matter to her father, the chief financial officer for a bank.
“He said, ‘I think business is good,’” she recalls.
She never looked back.
Through the course of her undergraduate career, she took the requisite business classes. But one called Principles of Marketing hit home with her.
“I loved learning about all of the ‘behind the scenes’ strategies that marketers use to understand and attract consumers,” she says.
Inspired, she asked her professor if she could be his teaching assistant the next semester. As she applied what she was learning to the real world, she became captivated by the celebrities who endorse products on television and magazines. As a sports fan, athletes caught her attention the most. Her interest became so strong, it was the topic of both her honors and graduate theses while attending school at the University of Florida, she says.
“Celebrities are not in a box,” she says. “They’re real people doing real things.”
With the explosion of reality television and social media, Kelting says consumers are more celebrity-obsessed than ever, and they’re watching them closely. So is she.
“Celebrities have more meanings,” she says. “We’re getting to know celebrities’ professional and personal lives more.”
One celebrity she’s very familiar with is former NBA basketball player Michael Jordan, whose endorsements include Gatorade, Nike and Hanes. Those products, she says, are a good fit for him – ones that people easily associate with sports. But when golfer Tiger Woods endorsed Buick in the early 2000s, the public didn’t embrace the message; they associated him more with high-end luxury cars. Some, she says, are just strange, like when rap musician 50 Cent endorsed Vitamin Water.
After earning her doctorate from Indiana University in 2011, Kelting is starting her first academic year as a marketing assistant professor at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, where she teaches Introduction to Marketing Strategy. She says one of the things that lured her to the University of Arkansas was the research facilities at the college, which she says are at an “elite level.”
“The resources for the lab here are amazing,” she says.
The faculty and staff also impressed her, she says.
“I feel I’m the most successful when I’m surrounded by nice people who are smart and will challenge me,” she says.
In addition to celebrity advertising, Kelting says she also researches private-label branding. “Retailers are introducing more and more private-labels into their stores,” she says. Kelting says she’s exploring how the presence of a private-label in a category affects consumer purchases.
Away from work, Kelting spends time with her husband, Bobby, a physical education teacher and coach in Rogers. She says they spend every spring break with their family and some close friends snow skiing in Colorado. She also likes to exercise, including running.
Naturally, spare time also means watching sports on television. And paying attention to the commercials.
“I’m a Gator fan, so I love Tim Tebow,” she says. “He makes a really unique celebrity endorser.”