Written by Milly Edgerley • Published 17th August 2016
To Endorse or not to Endorse: 4 of the Weirdest Celebrity & Brand Partnerships
In an increasingly digital world, where our reactions to brands and products are becoming all the more immediate, there is no greater marketing tool than the celebrity endorsement.
Whether it’s a TV star or an Instagram influencer, we look to these figures to dictate what we wear, what we eat, how we decorate our homes and so much more.
Rather than the occasional TV advert, platforms such as Instagram allow us to see and emulate what products celebrities are using in their day to day life – the ultimate endorsement for any product.
Seeing your favourite health blogger smiling statically, clutching a blender on a TV advert or billboard might not be that inspiring. Seeing that same blogger using said blender to make their breakfast 7 days a week, whilst singing its praises, is much more likely to have you forking out for one quicker than you can say ‘Amazon Prime’.
Celebrity endorsement is not a new phenomenon (90’s Brad Pritt advertising Pringles anyone?) however it’s now become more of a valuable resource for brands than ever before. Consequently, it has also never been more important to get it right.
The golden rule: Pick a celebrity that aligns with your brand
It should go without saying that the celebrity in question should at best be an expert in the field of what they are promoting. At the very least they should have values that align with that of your brand and core customer base.
Getting it ‘wrong’ in this instance does not necessarily mean picking someone completely controversial, ridiculous or vilified by the public. Even the most respected celebrity can be jarring if promoting a product or brand that has no relevance to their public persona.
For example, imagine a baking brand has chosen Mary Berry as their brand ambassador. This makes total sense. She is loved by the nation, her advice is trusted and most importantly she bakes for a living!
Everyone's getting into spiralising – even #maryberry's doing it! But do you really need a spiraliser? There are some other great kitchen tools you can use to prepare vegetables. Clockwise from right – use a peeler to create carrot ribbons, a julienne peeler will skinny-slice your courgettes, a grater makes quick work of sweet potatoes, and a mandolin will give you shorter thin potato strips. #BBCFood #spiraliser #kitchengadgets
Replace Mary Berry with David Attenborough and hopefully my point becomes clearer. David Attenborough is also loved by the nation, his advice is trusted however what on earth does David Attenborough have to do with baking equipment?
All this serves to do is confuse your customers and ensure that the conversation around your painstakingly constructed endorsement campaign becomes about the celebrity in question and their motives rather than your brand. Disaster.
Before embarking on an endorsement deal, perhaps its best to learn from those who have come before. Our top 4 weirdest celebrity endorsements are below: let us know what you think!
Jamie Oliver and Sadia
When Jamie Oliver announced his partnership with Sadia the outcry was only to be expected. After all, if you’re going to champion fresh, homegrown healthy food so vehemently that you break down in tears on national TV you better practise what you preach. And in this case that means not signing a deal for frozen ready meals with a Brazilian food giant.
We are happy to announce the partnership between Sadia and Jamie Oliver in Brazil! The line of chicken recipes will be launched in September
— BRF (@BRF_Global) June 28, 2016
Oliver claimed that the deal would give him the opportunity to make ‘lasting change on a large scale’ however this has been met with scepticism. Especially when it transpired that said deal was for a whopping £11.5 million.
Along with the general public, several high profile figures have weighed in on the decision with The Brazilian Vegetarian Society stating “Jamie Oliver, the world is disappointed in you”, ouch.
There may well be truth to Oliver’s claims that he can do more good from the inside of a company like Sadia and there have been reports that he has persuaded the company to adopt higher welfare standards for chickens. However, this company is so far away from Oliver’s homegrown, fresh food image that he’ll have to work hard to prove that the merit of this partnership goes beyond an £11.5 million endorsement deal.
Bob Dylan and Victoria Secret
Why, oh why would a respected and countercultural artist choose to sell ladies underwear?
It was a partnership that baffled everyone. Bob Dylan, who has famously disparaged the notion of selling out for years appeared to be doing just that.
This was the first advert that Dylan had ever appeared in, so why Victoria Secret? Perhaps, for him, it came down to exposure. After all, we’ve become accustomed to seeing older rockers appearing in Jaguar ads (Sting), or plugging car insurance (oh Iggy what has become of you) and selling butter (hey Ozzy! Jonny! Your crumpets are ready!). With the music space becoming so overcrowded perhaps it makes some sort of sense that even the most respected of musicians feel the pressure to remind their audience that they are still relevant in some way.
But what about Victoria Secret? This is an unstoppable conglomerate who regularly see the newest and most sought after stars gracing their runways: Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry, Kanye West, Ellie Goulding, Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Bruno Mars, Rihanna and so many more have performed for them.
So why would a brand that is all about youth, glamour and can seemingly get any name they like to endorse them want to associate themselves with a sixty something folksinger?
Don’t get me wrong, I love Bob Dylan. But I’m not looking for him to advise me on where best to buy my underwear. And I doubt anyone else is either.
It all goes back to what makes sense to the consumer audience. And for a brand whose core audience is aged 14 – 25, this was confusing at best.
Ozzy Osbourne and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Ozzy Osbourne? Black Sabbath, perhaps? Reality TV, maybe? A certain webbed-winged animal – who could forget!?
Is it a low fat butter replacement made entirely out of vegetable oil? I’m guessing not.
It’s easy to see what ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ were aiming for here and no one is suggesting that they were trying to position Ozzy Osbourne as a margarine expert. Arguably there is no such thing!
So let’s assume the aim of the ad was to grab the attention of their core audience. What then becomes truly baffling is why they chose Ozzy Osbourne in particular.
Take into account the fan base that Ozzy Osbourne appeals to. Are these people likely to be picking up a tub of ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ on a weekly shop? Perhaps it’s a generalisation but it seems rather unlikely. And even if I’m wrong on that count, why would Ozzy’s endorsement of the brand lead you to believe it was superior to any other brand? Does he strike you as a man who does a lot of home cooking or takes particularly good care of his health?
He must have been a costly celebrity choice, so it seems like a strange decision on behalf of the brand.
Iggy Pop and car insurance
Are we allowed to pretend this one never happened?
It seems hardly worth asking why one of rock’s most iconic rebels is now selling car insurance because it’s so horribly obvious and only marginally more upsetting than Johnny Rotten hawking Country Life Butter.
So why did this particular ad cause so much upset? Perhaps it was the manner in which it was presented. Iggy Pop was the master of performance and many will remember his showmanship first hand. So it seems reprehensible that he should be reduced to strutting around, shirtless in front of a cheap purple backdrop with an irritating puppet version of himself following suit.
That a once hero is now reduced to a tacky figure of amusement in these poorly produced adverts not only reflects badly on Iggy for ‘selling out’ but more so on Swift Cover for reducing him so.