Celebrity endorsements should be used to push more than brands and politicians should be using them to engage voters in the political process, a marketing academic says.

At the top of the list would be Olympians such as Valerie Vili.

Bath University's Dr Ekant Veer said while endorsement in the United States had long been part of the landscape and peaked last year with huge numbers of celebrities who openly backed Barack Obama's presidential campaign, Westminster democracies used celebrities rarely because of doubts about their credibility.

However, in research to be published in the European Journal of Marketing, the former Waikato University student has found good reason to turn that assumption on its head. Using advertisements which featured celebrities and non-celebrities, he asked 316 participants whether they would vote for the British Conservative Party.

He found that while endorsements did not work on those who rated themselves as having a high level of political understanding, for those who knew or cared little about politics the effects of having a celebrity on board made them more likely to vote for the party.

Academics who admit to half-hating their research results are rare, but that is where Dr Veer finds himself because political party strategists are likely to more effectively target celebrity endorsements to particular groups, he says.

"I hate the idea that a politician can pick this up and go 'sweet, we don't need people to think, we just need to find the biggest celebrity'. That's not good enough in my mind."

Instead he wants Governments to put aside money for bipartisan campaigns where celebrities sell the message of why it is important to vote.

"Get a bunch of celebrities together to say, 'Vote, we don't care who you vote for but you should get off your bums and vote.' I think there's a lot of good that could come from this."

But not just any celebrity would do, he said. In New Zealand achievements counted - Sir Edmund Hillary would have been a great endorser, but Valerie Vili also stood out.

Dr Veer said his research was important given declining voter turnouts around the world.

At the last British election 60 per cent of those eligible voted. In New Zealand 79.46 per cent voted in 2008, but in the Maori electorates the figure was only 62.41 per cent of eligible voters.

Dr Veer said none of those figures was good enough.