Role model advocacy for sustainable transport

Paul Hanna, Joe Kantenbacher, Scott A. Cohen, Stefan Gössling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (SciVal)


Individual aspirations of associating with role models are routinely harnessed by marketers, who for instance, use celebrity endorsement in selling brands and products. It appears there has been no research to date, however, on the potential for celebrity activism, or role model advocacy beyond celebrities, such as from politicians, to form effective interventions for encouraging sustainable transport behavior. This is despite studies suggesting that celebrity endorsement is a potential gateway for transforming public opinion on carbon intensive transport modes. The present paper consequently offers a critical review of the literature on role model advocacy and celebrity activism, and how these concepts have been harnessed to address environmental issues, in order to conceptually assess the potential for extending these intervention techniques to the context of sustainable transport. The scope of the paper includes the potential that high profile politicians/celebrities might play as role models in exercising referent power to influence social norms surrounding sustainable transport, given that the success of social marketing interventions are closely tied to the need for changes in the policy landscape. Key dimensions of role model endorsement in transport are identified and applied to a series of examples of how celebrity and political role models have influenced transport cultures. In addition to offering an original application of a theoretical framework to a new context, in order to help address the increasingly important societal issue of transport’s growing contribution to climate change, the paper discusses the challenges associated with the neoliberal framing of this approach.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-382
JournalTransportation Research, Part D: Transport and Environment
Early online date2017 Aug 12
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


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