Unfortunate Celebrity Endorsements of 2015–They’re No Slam Dunk!

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Many people may think that celebrity sponsorships are the holy grail of marketing, but are they really worth it? While stars can boost a brand’s image temporarily, they can also be a horrible match for a company in the long term. As a result, many consumers end up viewing the brand as inauthentic–or worse! This is a large reason why studies have shown that consumers actually prefer celebrity endorsements less than non-celebrity ads:

From Alec Baldwin and Capital One to Lance Armstrong and Nike, there have been plenty of examples over the years where a relationship between a celebrity and a brand ended in disaster. Before a company jumps the gun to sign a contract with a celebrity, they’d do well to remember these partnerships—from 2015 alone—that ended up putting brands in a bad light:

Kia and LeBron James

Do you picture LeBron James riding up to a basketball game in a Kia? Of course not—the multimillionaire NBA superstar probably wants to drive something a little more luxurious than a car that’s widely marketed as “affordable.” Yet somehow, LeBron has been an ambassador for the Kia K900 luxury sedan for over a year.

Understandably, the athlete’s fans are questioning how much he actually supports the brand, and Kia even created a series of ads to address the controversy. Here’s the commercial made as a response to a tweet that read: “I bet $10,000,000 that LeBron doesn’t roll up to the games in a Kia.”

While that attempt at spin control didn’t work, even worse, when LeBron was asked if he drives his K900 to home games, he said “sometimes.” That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, and evidence that brands should be careful when deciding who best represents them.

McDonald’s and LeBron James

McDonald’s relationship with LeBron began when he was a teenager and the chain sponsored his growth as an All-American high school basketball player. But now that LeBron is rich and famous, people have trouble believing he eats anything off the dollar menu (and certainly not while after taking his Kia through the drive-thru window!).

That’s one reason why McDonald’s and LeBron ended their contract, but this video of LeBron slamming the nutritional value of their food suggests there may have been other reasons. The basketball player is now attempting to distance himself further from the popular franchise through his partnership with the fast-casual food chain Blaze Pizza. McDonald’s, on the other hand, is left scrambling to find another elite athlete willing to claim that fast food contributes to their success. Good luck with that.

RadioShack and Nick Cannon

Unlike the partnerships on this list, this one is still intact. In fact, RadioShack just made Nick Cannon—the same guy from Drumline and Wild n’ Out— their Chief Creative Officer in December 2015. According to a recent press release, the star will “help the company continue to grow its educational and S.T.E.M (science, technology, engineering and math) initiatives nationwide,” as well as curate performances, events, and the store’s music selection.

RadioShack has had image problems for years. As a brand, they’re not particularly synonymous with luxury and quality, and as a business, they’ve made plenty of missteps that killed their relevancy. So how can Nick Cannon save them? Sure, he can give RadioShack some much-needed press, but what skills does he offer that can actually improve the company’s S.T.E.M initiatives? Can he even juggle a c- level executive position with his entertainment career? This seems like a match that’s just waiting to fail.

Diclegis and Kim Kardashian

When you’re a pharmaceutical company, your biggest priority should be staying in the good graces of the FDA and making sure you’re not breaking any regulations. That is, unless you’re Diclegis, the morning sickness drug, who seem to prioritize landing celebrity endorsements instead.

When celebrities are rumored to be paid $230,000 per social media post, one can only wonder how much Kim Kardashian received from Diclegis to promote them on Instagram and “increase awareness” about their product. This is the original promotion, which has since been removed.

While this post definitely got Diclegis a ton of attention—check out those 466k likes—the FDA was not pleased, and understandably so. Kim had not included any health warnings in her post, which breaks medical advertising laws. She also didn’t specify that the promotion was a paid post.

Diclegis, and Kim, managed to save their skin by posting a follow-up post on Instagram and Twitter, as well as deleting the original post. Needless to say, this PR debacle has made Diclegis seem like a less than reputable brand—definitely not something a company wants for a drug that pregnant women put into their bodies.

Lessons Learned

Over the past few years, the definition of what a brand influencer is has changed, and celebrity endorsements can be tricky to pull off effectively. Instead, companies are reaching out to everyday advocates for their brand. For example, LuluLemon not only sponsors elite athletes, but also community fitness leaders who serve as local ambassadors for their store. Tom’s of Maine takes a similar approach online, by sponsoring lesser-known Instagram users who are extremely passionate about earth-friendly products.

Today’s brands don’t need to spend millions courting celebrities to speak for them; they may be better off investing in passionate influencers who bring more credibility and authenticity to the message–with much less risk.

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