Celebrity Endorsements Gone Wrong

In the past week or so, we've seen a few celebrity endorsement deals go south - most prominently, Michael Phelps for Kellogg and Chris Brown for Wrigley's.

It was also rumored that Subway was considering dropping Phelps as a spokesperson after the Olympic gold medalist was photographed smoking marijuana at a college party. Now, even the conservative among us know that smoking marijuana is popularly linked to binge eating, so the fact that food brands were dropping endorsement deals exposed the companies to some amount of ridicule, including a Saturday Night Live skit surrounding Kellogg. Bloggers, forums and news writers have have been abuzz with clever quips about Subway sandwiches being the perfect food for college smokers nationwide.

The Chris Brown case unfortunately takes on a more serious note, as he was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend, the famous Rihanna. Brown has been suspended "until the matter is resolved" from his major endorsement deal with Wrigley's Doublemint Gum. The partnership was a new frontier in advertising - Wrigley's actually financed and produced Brown's song specifically for their campaign - a modern day, tricked out jingle, if you will. Brown also endorses a number of other projects - at this time it is not clear if these are also in jeopardy. He has been forced to pull out of his scheduled NBA All-Star Game appearance this weekend in Phoenix, surely meaning more lost revenue for the singer so that the NBA can save face.

The bigger question here is not what will happen to these individuals, but what will happen to celebrity endorsements as a whole. Marketers post big bucks to associate their brand with a celebrity - and this week has been a clear example of how these efforts can backfire, exposing a brand to ridicule or unpleasant associations and leaving an unpleasant taste (how appropriate, in this case) in consumers collective mouths.


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