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.
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.
Due perhaps to its prevalence, in some jurisdictions it is 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.)
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.
- 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.)
- Wrestling chicken farmers The Briscoes for the yard company STILH.
- 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,
Puff Daddy P. DiddySean Combs, and Adam Levine have all done advertisements for the Proactiv 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 and car-related services
- 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.
- O.J. Simpson for Hertz, for almost 20 years from the mid-70s until...you know...
- 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.
- 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 an extreme example, because the entire premise of it was celebrity endorsements, right down to the slogan.
- Former NFL QB Brett Favre, who endorses Wrangler blue jeans.
- This happens In-Universe in The Widow of Desire, where a soap opera actress is hired to star in commercials for the main character's fur fashion company.
- Played for laughs by Hanes, who hired quarterback Joe Namath to do a commercial in 1973 for their Beautymist line of pantyhose. And yes, he did wear them in the commercial.
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 liked it or not, this was the aspect of his career that seemed to live on longest in popular culture. Keyword: "Seemed".
- 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 '80s. 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 '90s...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 Cadbury'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 the 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-Rio group is sprint kayaker Lisa Carrington, pole vaulter Eliza McCartney, para-swimmer Sophie Pascoe, and BMX rider Sarah Walker.
- Whitney Houston endorsed Diet Coke in The '80s. 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.
- Kurt Angle and the Pizza Outlet chain of Pittsburgh.
- Místico does commercials for Nestle... and the Mexican National Action Party.
- The next step in building the Mickie James empire is drinking Dr. Pepper
- Former England footballer Gary Lineker advertises Walker's crisps (chips in America) and other snack foods. He also is the main presenter for Match of the Day on The BBC and is a frequent guest on panel games where he is often teased about the connection. His attitude is generally: "Money, Dear Boy".
- Sakis Rouvas starred in ads for the ArGOODaki charity campaign, commissioned by fast food chain Goodys Burger House, as well as related merchandise. Lydia Katsanikaki from Greece's Next Top Model also stars in the chain's commercial "I Telia Goneia".
- 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.
- One of the supplements for the horror RPG Chill had a series of short adventures hosted by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
- 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 widespread 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.
- Clash of Clans ran a Super Bowl ad in 2015 featuring Liam Neeson channeling his character from the Taken film series.
- Game of War: Fire Age uses supermodel Kate Upton as its spokesperson and Lady Not-Appearing-in-This-Game.
- 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.
- Infamously, Genichiro Tenryu left All Japan Pro Wrestling to become a spokesman for eye glass company Megane Super. Then Megane executive Hachiro Tanaka turned around and launched his own pro wrestling promotion, Super World Of Sports, built around Tenryu. It wasn't until All Japan absolutely needed him after the NOAH exodus that they let Tenryu return and New Japan smartly kept Hiroshi Tanahashi around when he promoted McDonalds.
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.
- Body builder turned pro wrestler John Quinlan and wrestler turned mixed martial artist Bobby Lashley for supplement company Nutrabolics.
- Soccer player Pelé and Viagra, also known as "the Pelé pill". Mercilessly parodied in The Simpsons.
- Also, Bob Dole.
- And former Major Leaguer Rafael Palmeiro (before steroid allegations ruined his career).
- Stern's Ali pinball table, devoted to boxer Muhammad Ali.
- Stern Pinball's Sharkey's Shootout features world-famous pool player Jeanette "The Black Widow" Lee, who also serves as the Final Boss for the game.
- Subverted with Data East's Guns N' Roses — while Slash appears prominently in the game's advertisements, it's because he co-designed the game.
- Bally's Hardbody was endorsed by the first Ms. Olympia, Rachel McLish.
- Metro Manners: The "Wait your turn to enter" PSA features a cameo from Danny Trejo, where he introduces himself with "Hi, I'm Danny Trejo" and delivers the message of the episode. Done in a self-aware way, as Trejo acknolwedges that he's not the campaign's usual sponsor.
- Ed McMahon and Dick Clark for American Family Publishers. McMahon was also once a paid endorser for an insurance company.
- Kevin Sullivan says to listen to Caged Heat Radio, or he'll kick down your door, strap you down and turn your radio on full blast.
- Steve Corino says to listen to Caged Heat Radio, or he'll knock your teeth down your throat!
- 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.
- Cimorelli at one point actually endorsed for Subway, one for singing about the Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt (Yes they sang the whole jingle for it) and one about piling up your veggie options at your local Subway, complete with singing about it. In return, Subway sponsored their six episode Web Original short series "Summer With Cimorelli".
Christina: (After the voiceover narrator Breaking the Fourth Wall) You are so not helping!
- Victoria Justice for Build-A-Bear Workshop, since she's their recent spokesperson. Before her, Meghan Martin was their spokesperson.
- 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 early in his presidency wasn't an endorsement per se, but was certainly not unwelcome publicity for RIM at a time it was sorely needed.
- 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". At the time Hodgman was appearing in a well-known series of Apple ads.
- Boxer 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 at one point 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.
- One particularly hilarious 2003 ad for Apple's PowerBook line showed Verne Troyer and Yao Ming sitting next to one another on a plane, each with his own computer. The hilarious part: the sub-3-foot Troyer was using the 17" (largest) model, while the 7'6" Yao was using the 12" (smallest) model.
- Japanese actress and singer Aya Ueto did this during the run of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED not to endorse the show itself but the model kits that were available during the show's run, mostly in the kits' commercials. Two examples here.
- William Shatner for PriceLine.com.
- ...and World of Warcraft too, apparently.
- ...and Promise margarine
- ...and for Loblaws supermarkets in Canada.
- Pauley Perrette for Expedia.
- The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: Played seriously in its sequel Picking Up the Pieces. Captain General Gentle Step had, at one point, given her endorsement to a bar - The Old Terminal Bar. When it refuses to serve one of her captains because he's a Changeling, she revokes her endorsement and gives it to another bar, The Blue Mountain, which has no problem with serving Changelings.
- 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!
- 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 hilariously on Whose Line Is It Anyway?. "Celebrity endorsements that are doomed to fail."
- 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:
- 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.
- Parodied in Community with Subway a few times. They would also get into endorsing fake brands like Splingles, to the point of Troy sending Britta home when she tries to endorse a 'healthier' potato chip instead. This happens as well with normal Product Placement - they'd get fake brands from a prop company and place them like actual product placement.
- Homestar Runner:
- Parodied in the Strong Bad Email "suntan", where an Easter egg has Homsar offering a "Celebrity(?) Testimonial" for Strong Bad's Ab-Abber 2000.
Homsar: Aaaaaaaaah—I'm just in time for the murder mystery!
- Near the end of "geddup noise", Strong Bad's retrospective on the career of the Geddup Noise (an anthropomorphized sound effect of a chair moving across the floor) says that "ol' Geddy" spends all his time snowboarding in the Coches mountains, only popping up in "the odd, or sometimes very odd" commercial.
- There's also Strong Bad's generic pitch in "Coach Z's 110%": "This product is a product I endorse... on my hat."
- Parodied in the Strong Bad Email "suntan", where an Easter egg has Homsar offering a "Celebrity(?) Testimonial" for Strong Bad's Ab-Abber 2000.
- Mass Effect 2: Commander Shepard may choose to convince stores to give him/her a discount by endorsing the store. You can do this with every store on the station, so you are followed by an everlasting chime of "I'm Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite store on the Citadel."
- Gears of War: "THE COLE TRAIN RUNS ON WHOLE GRAIN, BABY! WOOOOO!"
- League of Legends: Dunkmaster Darius is a skin depicting the champion Darius as a professional basketball player (it ties into community in-jokes). Sometimes, when buying items in the store, he has these taglines for them.
"Reliable tools are the only way Darius gets the job done. Frozen Mallet - put your problems on ice!"
"For a dunk legend like me, only Infinity Edge will do. Infinity Edge - the closest shave."
"When I'm hungry, I turn to Ravenous Hydra. Pure energy - no carbs."
- One strip of Funny Farm had Gulius open the door to find himself facing a dinosaur singing "I love you, you love I. Do you have insurance for when you die?"
- In Sinfest, Slick runs for president. Satan endorses him.
- 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."
- The Island of Misfit Christmas Specials had a running gag in which Peter Paltridge sometimes ended reviews by asking, "Does Mary Lou Retton like it?", then presenting a picture of the gymnast expressing either displeasure or enjoyment of the special. (The pictures consist of screenshots of advertisements she did in The '80s, Photoshopped to include characters from the specials.) Peter's review of The Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa ended by revealing that Mary Lou Retton somehow died while watching the cartoon, so the following reviews replaced her with more obscure "celebrities".