Celebrity Endorsements

Two for Tuesday: Celebrity Endorsement Deals Brands Dropped

Vanilla Ice loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and Kraft).


While Ice’s more controversial days are (likely) behind him, hiring any celebrity to endorse a product or brand seems like an even riskier venture these days than in the past thanks to the speed bad press can circulate via social media. This sort of deal can go wrong in a number of ways, so let’s look at a couple recent examples this Two for Tuesday to get an idea of what kind of controversy brands should avoid.

Paula Deen

Celebrity chef Paula Deen’s story has been nothing but a downward spiral since her admission to using the N-word during a 2013 deposition for an employment discrimination lawsuit. Although the case was later dismissed, her admission to using derogatory slurs created a firestorm of media attention and an instantaneous negative public reaction. She defended her remarks, however poorly, by saying she grew up in the South in a different time and the instance she used the word to describe what happened to her after being robbed at gunpoint in the 1960s. The Food Network promptly announced they weren’t renewing her contract, and several other brands severed ties with the chef.

Deen was scheduled to make an appearance on the Today show to discuss the incident but didn’t show up and later that day issued a video where she begged for forgiveness that appeased few. Following that, she was fired or suspended from endorsement deals with Smithfield Foods, Walmart, Target, QVC, Caesars Entertainment, Home Depot, Novo Nordisk, J.C. Penney, Sears and Kmart. She returned to the Today show and, while crying through her apologies on television, blamed others–especially “young people”– for her downfall, which cemented her position as public pariah. (Despite calls from former President Jimmy Carter for the public to forgive the celebrity chef).

Earlier this week, Deen made headlines when she announced her abrupt closing of her Savannah, Georgia restaurant, Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, to her fans and employees on Facebook.

Rick Ross

This past year saw a string of brands experimenting with rappers (with a bit more ‘cred’ than Ice) as spokesmen in what appeared to be an attempt to bring an edge to the brand (and attract their Millennial fans). Unfortunately, many of these brands found themselves further in the fringe than they expected, including Reebok.
The popular rapper Rick Ross had been serving as a spokesman for the footwear and athletic apparel company until Ross’s controversial lyrics surfaced. Listeners took note of his verse featured on fellow rapper Rocko’s song, “U.O.E.N.O.” Ross’s rap describes a faintly veiled description of drugging and raping a woman. While he denied that this was the meaning of the lyrics and apologized, Ross couldn’t appease the public backlash. Soon after, a petition was put forth to Reebok to dissociate with Ross, which they did.

Obviously brands take risks associating themselves with anyone who lives under the pop culture microscope. Many times those risks pay off, but when they don’t, they likely get dropped.

Do you think celebrity endorsements are worth the risk? Tell us in the comments!

Cover Photo Source: iQoncept

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Kaz is a Junior Executive at SJG. He earned BAs in English Writing and Business Marketing at Illinois Wesleyan University and is currently pursuing an MA in Advertising at The University of Texas at Austin. Outside the office, Kaz consumes gobs of media including but not limited to books, magazines, music, movies and television.[/author_info] [/author]