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Celebrity Endorsement
"I am the Greatest ...endorser!"

The use of celebrities in product advertising seems to appear more in TV than in older media, such as radio, print and even cinema. Actors, athletes, musicians and other notables have lent their talents to TV commercials. Some, like Paul Newman, have gone so far as to create the products they sell.

More properly called "Celebrity Spokesman", as an endorsement requires the celebrity testify to his own use of the product, and this isn't always part of a celebrity's role in the commercial.

Due perhaps to its prevalence, at some point it became required to indicate in a caption or subtitle if the celebrity endorser was compensated for the endorsement. That is to say, if you paid the celebrity to endorse your product, you had to mention that on the screen somewhere.

Although most common on TV, a common literary equivalent is to see a brief quotation from one author enthusiastically endorsing the work of another one on the cover or in the opening pages of their latest work. Given that the usual dynamic is a very well-known author endorsing a lesser-known one ("John Anonymous is this generation's Master of the Macabre!" ~ Stephen King), whether the well-known author has even read the book in question is, of course, uncertain.

Interestingly, the idea of celebrity endorsements dates back at least to Ancient Rome. Popular gladiators would regularly be paid to endorse various products and services. (In fact, Ridley Scott planned to have a scene in his film Gladiator where some of the arena fighters endorsed products, but changed his mind when he realized that the public wouldn't buy it as real.)

I'm Not a Doctor, but I Play One on TV is a subset of this. See Character Celebrity Endorsement for endorsements from celebrities that are not, in fact, real.

See also Advertising Campaigns, and Character Celebrity Endorsement when the product is promoted by fictional beings, who are celebrities nonetheless. Some celebrities willing to do endorsements but afraid of being seen as sellouts indulge in Japandering by appearing in foreign ads that are not meant to be seen by their home fanbase.


Examples

Appliances
  • George Foreman and his "Lean, Mean, Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine". (Many people don't even remember what Foreman was famous for — He was a professional boxer.)

Banking
  • Phil Rizzuto for The Money Store.
  • Rowan Atkinson in Barclaycard ads during the 80's.
  • John Cleese did a series of commercials for the Dutch Postbank N.V. banking firm. As can be expected, they were quite funny. So funny in fact, that people remember the commercial, but not what it was for.

Beauty and Hygiene
  • Alyssa Milano, Jenna Fischer, Jessica Simpson, and Puff Daddy P. Diddy Sean Combs have all done advertisements for the Proactive line of acne medication.
  • Revlon relies heavily on celebrity endorsements. Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon and Queen Latifah are among some of the big names who have shilled for the company.

Cars
  • Jack Charlton hilariously tried to link car sales to football. "In football, you should take the most direct route to goal. It's like buying a car... "
  • Derek Jeter for Ford.

Charity
  • Kristen Bell did a voiceover for Charity: Water's introduction/mission statement video, as well as televised a few interviews for scientists that backed up Charity: Water's statistics to give their mission credibility.
  • Sarah MacLachlan has done a pair of infamous ads with the ASPCA, panning over shelter dogs while her song "Angel" plays in the background. Since starting, the ASPCA estimates that $30 Million has been raised as a direct result of the ad.

Clothing
  • Lights lent some of her songs to (and even appeared in) an Old Navy TV ad campaign in early 2008. Inverted since these commercials actually introduced her to many of her fans.
  • Blackglama Mink's "What Becomes a Legend Most?" campaign was probably the most extreme version of this trope, mainly because the entire premise of it was celebrity endorsements, right down to the slogan.
  • Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre, who endorses Wrangler blue jeans.

Food and Drink
  • The Monkees for Kellogg's cereals, during their TV show.
  • Bill Cosby for Jell-O, Eastman Kodak & Coca-Cola. Whether the Cos likes it or not, this is the aspect of his career that will probably live on longest in popular culture.
    • Parodied by The Simpsons: "You see, jazz is like the Jello Pudding Pop — no, actually, it's more like Kodak film — no, actually, jazz is like the New Coke: it'll be around forever, heh heh heh."
  • Michael J. Fox was such a huge supporter of Pepsi/Diet Pepsi during the late 1980s, most likely due to the rather prominent Pepsi product placement in Back to the Future. More Pepsi product placement was included in Back to the Future Part II. Michael J. Fox was even given a lifetime supply to Diet Pepsi.
  • Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" climaxes with a reference to the "Rock and roller cola wars" of The Eighties. This refers to how Pepsi and Coke both frequently hired musicians for their TV ads in this period, a practice that was outright mocked by Neil Young in his song and video "This Note's for You" in 1989. Pepsi tended to get the biggest names, although no less than three of them proved problematic:
    • David Bowie's ad with Tina Turner (1987) was pulled when he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman after a concert in Dallas (these charges were subsequently dismissed).
    • Madonna's 1989 ad featured her new single "Like a Prayer". It debuted before the video for the song did, and while nothing in the ad reflected anything in the controversial video, the latter caused enough of an uproar that the former was canned.
    • Michael Jackson was pressured into shilling for Pepsi in 1984 by the rest of his family and wound up severely burned in an accident on the set of one of the resultant ads. Nevertheless, the money was good enough that he continued to shill for them into The Nineties...until he was accused of child molestation. Pepsi chose not to renew their contract with him after he cancelled the remainder of the Dangerous Tour they were busy sponsoring when the charges broke. In 2011, however, Dead Artists Are Better came into play and they began using old footage/images of him in their newer campaigns.
    • Parodied by the Scottish soft drink Irn Bru, with an advert featuring a Fake Band of aging rock stars with a song that openly declares they're doing this for Money, Dear Boy.
  • Cybill Shepherd was in a series ads for the U.S. Beef Industry Council, although she admitted she is a vegetarian.
    • James Garner also shilled for the Beef Council.
  • Jay Leno in the Doritos ads during the 80's. "Crunch all you want, we'll make more."
  • Verne Troyer for Cadberry's mini chocolates range.
  • Johnny Rotten is advertising Country Life butter.
  • "Macho Man" Randy Savage would like to tell you to SNAP INTO A SLIM JIM! OH YEAH! The Ultimate Warrior also endorsed Slim Jims, and Edge subsequently would in more recent years.
  • Fabio can't believe it's not butter!
  • Poor, poor Orson Welles... Mrs. Paul's Fishsticks.
  • John Cleese did some very funny commercials for Schwepps Ginger Ale.
  • Kenny Rogers endorsed Dole pineapples, until his contract was canceled after some extra-marital shenanigans came into the public eye.
  • Humorously sent up by Robert Loggia for Minute Maid orange-tangerine blend, the joke being that of all the celebrities you'd expect a kid to be blown away by, the craggy-voiced guy from Scarface (1983) has to be pretty low on the list, and yet: "WHOA, Robert Loggia!"
  • Numerous pop culture figures ranging from Angry Birds to Kermit the Frog have appeared in the ad campaign for Wonderful Pistachios, a California pistachio grower.
  • Mr T is a fan of UK chocolate bar Snickers as seen in a number of rather...manly commercials, the first of which had him invade a football pitch in a TANK. All to chastise one player for screaming like a sissy after getting tackled, before throwing a Snickers bar at his head, threatening that if said player does it again, then he's gonna "meet (Mr. T)'s friend PAIN!"
    Mr. T: Snickers!! Get some NUTS!! MMMM!
  • Several New Zealand medal-winning female Olympians (and the occasional Paralympian) have endorsed New Zealand beef and lamb. The latest post-London group is BMX rider Sarah Walker, sprint kayaker Lisa Carrington, and Paralympic swimmer Sophie Pascoe.
  • Whitney Houston endorsed Diet Coke in The Eighties. In the 2010s, Taylor Swift is Diet Coke's big female musical star. (Interestingly, the renowned British absurdist cartoonist Tom Gauld [whose works feature in The Guardian, amongst other publications] has had some of his illustrations featured on cans of Diet Coke, though only in conjunction with their The Heart Truth [women's heart health awareness] campaign.)
  • Aja Kong was once her nation's spokeswoman for orange juice.

Games
  • Art Linkletter used to appear in a small seal on the box of the Game of Life. He also appeared on the $100,000 bill in the game.

Gaming
  • World of Warcraft has fully endorsed this route, with commercials staring Verne Troyer, William Shatner, Mr. T, Chuck Norris and more. This is to demonstrate how wide spread the game has become, so all of the celebrities you see, actually play the game.
    • Jay Leno has also done this recently- as one of the "greenskins"
  • A quasi-example since he actually made it himself, but in Japan, the biggest selling point of the MOTHER trilogy was that it was the work of Shigesato Itoi, who was at the peak of his popularity at the time; most of the promotional material for MOTHER made a point of pointing out that it was his creation. In straighter examples, SMAP member Takuya Kimura was all over the advertising for MOTHER 2, and actress Kou Shibasaki discussing the emotional impact of the game was pretty much the entire television commercial campaign for MOTHER 3.
  • Alexey Pajitnov, creator of Tetris, "introduces ClockWerx" on both its packaging and title screen. Many players and even reviewers took this to mean that he had designed it, where in fact he had absolutely no involvement beyond the endorsement.
  • The 2011 The Legend of Zelda games (Ocarina of Time 3D and Skyward Sword) were promoted by Robin Williams and his daughter, largely related to the fact that the daughter had been named Zelda after the princess.

General
  • Big name celebrities who have done Japanese ad campaigns include Orlando Bloom, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Madonna, Brad Pitt, Bruce Willis, Kiefer Sutherland and Harrison Ford.
  • Michael Jordan is very much the king of endorsements in basketball, and perhaps all of sports.
    • BE LIKE MIKE!
    • Lampshaded when he appeared on Saturday Night Live and stated that there were some things he decided not to endorse. Cue mock commercial with a woman asking him, "Michael... do you ever get that not-so-fresh feeling?" And when Jordan appeared with the Superfans at Ditka's restaurant he was given the option of Coke or Gatorade (the two beverages he had shilled for and was about to shill for respectively). He declined both.
  • Peyton Manning, and here's his following endorsements: DirecTV, MasterCard, Sony, Oreo, Gatorade, Wheaties, Papa John's Pizza, and Nationwide Insurance.
  • Shaquille O'Neal, who is more famous for his endorsements than his basketball career.

Health and Nutrition
  • Tommy LaSorda and Elizabeth Ashley for Slim-Fast.
  • Kirstie Alley for Jenny Craig.
  • Chuck Norris for the Total Gym.
  • Suzanne Somers and her Thighmaster.

Medicine
  • Soccer player Pele and Viagra, also known as "the Pele pill". Mercilessly parodied in The Simpsons.
    • Also, Bob Dole.
    • And former Major Leaguer Rafael Palmiero(before steroid allegations ruined his career).

Pinball

Publishing
  • Ed McMahon and Dick Clark for American Family Publishers. McMahon was also once a paid endorser for an insurance company.

Restaurants
  • In one of the oddest, and perhaps most ironic, ads of all time, ousted Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev appeared in a Russian-language commercial for Pizza Hut, which later aired in the US.

Stores

Technology
  • Stephen Colbert, in character, talked Apple into sending him a free iPhone by promising to promote it on The Colbert Report.
    • To say nothing of "Stephen Colbert's Americone Dream" flavor of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
    • He did it AGAIN with the iPad the day it was announced. 4 days later, presenting at the Grammys, what does he have down his pants? And he still happily shilled for it even after the less than typical reception (for an Apple product at least) it got upon its unveiling.
  • President Barack Obama's much-publicized struggle to keep his Blackberry in the Oval Office isn't an endorsement per se, but it's certainly not unwelcome publicity for RIM.
    • Lampshaded by John Hodgman at a press dinner, in which he referred to the President's "smartphone whose brand name I am contractually obligated not to mention".
      • Possibly justified if you consider the commercials he appears in regularly.
  • Boxing athlete Manny Pacquiao and Teen Idol Miranda Cosgrove for HP Veer 4G smartphone. Lampshaded that neither one of them use it in real life, although for the latter, it's currently the sponsor for iCarly.com.
    • The latter hits it hard with Narm for her ad, because it had so much Innocent Innuendo, as pointed out by those who comment on the ad on YouTube.
    • Speaking of Apple products; Samuel L. Jackson, John Malkovich, and Zooey Deschanel have shilled for Siri. Zooey's spot has become memetic for certain reasons.

Websites

Parody Examples

Comic Books
  • A short story for Damage Control had a proposed advertising campaign built around Joe Fixit, with the tag line "We Clean Up The Hulk's Messes, We Can Clean Up Yours". Needless to say, he wasn't pleased...

Film
  • Heavily parodied in the original Wayne's World, with a scene in which Wayne and Garth explain how they won't sell out to the TV network, while overtly displaying various products and spouting advertising slogans (including Garth dressed head to toe in in assorted Reebok Sportswear. It culminated in Wayne having a headache and asking for two Nuprin, which appeared on a black and white background, just like the ads.
  • Alpa Chino of Tropic Thunder kept on pushing his energy drink and energy bar while he was filming his movie set during the Vietnam War.
  • In Love And Other Disasters, yet another fashion charity event has been set up, featuring a big-name star from British broadcasting:
    Felicity Riggs-Wentworth: (reading from script) Without further ado I would like to introduce any available English celebrity... (realizes what she's read) Angus Deayton.
  • Parodied in Pixar's Cars, with the Rusteze Medicated Bumper Ointment Commercial.
    Lightning McQueen: Use this, and you too, can look like ME! Ka-CHOW!

Live-Action TV
  • Parodied hilariously on Whose Line Is It Anyway?. "Celebrity endorsements that are doomed to fail."
    Wayne: (In a squeaky voice) I'm Mike Tyson for Encyclopedia Brittanica.
  • In Castle, Castle receives a package of books from the publisher for him to read so that they can solicit cover quotes for marketing purposes. When questioned by his mother and daughter on how he can possibly get them all read, he replies he doesn't have to, and proceeds to demonstrate with a couple of examples:
    Castle: [Holding them to his head as if he were a magician identifying a card] "A tour-de-force in terror!" ~ Richard Castle. "Does for hot-tubs what Jaws did for the ocean!"
  • Saturday Night Live spoofed the Alex Trebek insurance commercials with Sam Waterston for Old Glory insurance, the only insurance that protects senior citizens from rampaging robots.

Video Games

Web Original
  • Homestar Runner parodied this in Strong Bad's retrospective on the career of the Geddup Noise (an anthropomorphized sound effect of a chair moving across the floor), stating that Geddup is currently retired except for endorsements in bizarre infomercials.
    • There's also Strong Bad's generic pitch in "Coach Z's 110%": "This product is a product I endorse... on my hat."
  • Abridged Series Sonic The Other Movie opens with Steve Blum telling us he "does not support or endorse this project in any way. You should probably watch something else."

Western Animation
  • Spoofed on The Simpsons Movie: "This is Tom Hanks. The government has lost all its credibility, so it's borrowing some of mine."
    • Played straight with Butterfinger candy, but then (naturally, it's the Simpsons) then spoofed, lampshaded and self-parodied in-universe.

Webcomics
Catch the ConscienceOlder Than FeudalismCelibate Hero
CatchphraseWe Are Not Alone IndexChangeling Tale
Bottled CoolBasic Commercial TypesCharacter Celebrity Endorsement
Battle TrophyImageSource/OtherGotta Catch Them All

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