13 celebrity endorsement deals that backfired

If you’re trying to market a service or a product, it seems like a celebrity endorsement is hard to beat, right?

Think again.

Sure, celebrity endorsements are a great way to grab eyeballs. But sometimes, that attention is unwanted.

PHOTOS: 13 celebrity endorsements that backfired


“It’s never a sure thing,” Mike Paul, a crisis management consultant known as the Reputation Doctor, told the Los Angeles Times. “Brands need to do their homework, know what they are getting into, because it’s not a slam dunk.”

Take the case of Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan. The Torrance-born Kwan came under fire last week by health advocates who took issue with her decision to endorse Coca-Cola while also serving on the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, with its “eat healthy” mission.

“I look at that and I think, ‘Someone didn’t do their homework,’” Paul said. Given the concern about childhood obesity, and its connection with sugary drinks, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Kwan would take heat.

To be sure, some brands take an “any publicity is good publicity” approach. But these complaints could dog Kwan in whatever interviews she does going forward, and that’s not the kind of publicity Coca-Cola signed on for, Paul said.

Kwan might take some solace from this: She is in all-star company.

Plenty of endorsements face intense scrutiny when critics seize on a celebrity’s involvement to raise awareness -- thanks in no small part to an all-too-willing media and a voracious 24/7 news cycle that needs feeding.

Singer Taylor Swift has been criticized for endorsing Diet Coke. Actress Scarlett Johansson was taken to task for endorsing SodaStream, an Israeli company that operates a factory in a West Bank settlement, on controversial, Israeli-occupied territory. (One Johansson critic has compared it to “supporting the apartheid system in the old South Africa.”)

Sometimes, endorsement deals just draw fire because it’s not what we expect from a particular artist.

If you were watching the Super Bowl earlier this month, you saw this firsthand when America gasped at the sight of Bob Dylan -- Bob Dylan!!! -- shilling for Chrysler. Some accused him of being a sell-out, while others shrugged.

In other cases, the celebrity may do something that runs afoul of the endorsement agreement.

Charlize Theron was embroiled in a nasty lawsuit with Swiss watchmaker Raymond Weil. The company said as part of an endorsement deal, the Oscar winner pledged to wear only Raymond Weil watches. But then -- oops! -- she was photographed wearing a Christian Dior number.

Don’t even get us started on Tiger Woods and Paula Deen. (Speaking of Deen: She is on the cover of this week’s People, and hoping that a new partnership, privately funded to the tune of $75 million, will help her get back on top.)

What’s your take on celebrity endorsements? Are you more likely to reach for your wallet if your favorite celebrity is involved? Tweet me @renelynch


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