Celebrity endorsements have the power to make or break a brand. Choose the right hunk in tight trousers and an inability to remember where he left his t-shirt and you’ll shift bottles of aftershave from Beard Dude. Similarly, choose an international star like Sylvester Stallone, take him out of his Hollywood mansion, fly him to a small northern town in England and make him pretend to love bread and you can take your brand to new heights.
Of course, celebrity endorsements and commercials don’t always hit the mark. In fact, sometimes the use of a certain “star” can lead the online world’s trusty flock of easily offended Twitter lovers to crow about the injustice of celebrity X being used as a marketing tool.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a rundown of the moments when ad agencies struck gold and the times they seemingly had a meltdown into their frappe-mocha-latte-ccino.
Casino Kings and Court Jesters
Online casino companies have always been willing to take a gamble on the celebrity endorsement circuit in a bid to push their brands. As you’d expect, some have hit the jackpot while others have had some media executives wishing they’d played it safe and used Hugh Jackman.
As online gambling has breached new markets, operators such as 32Red Casino have dipped a tentative toe into the waters of celebrity endorsements in recent years. One of the company’s branded campaigns involved one-time drag queen, friend of the late Cilla Black and all-round Liverpool legend, Paul O’Grady. His UK show is a hit with pensioners and part-time professionals and seemingly struck a chord with audiences around the world.
Taking a slightly riskier direction and moving away from the comfortable afternoon audiences is bgo Casino. The operator recently enlisted the services of one celebrity and two “celebrities”. Everyone will know the diminutive Verne Troyer from Austin Powers, but Paris Hilton and Dan Bilzerian are, at best unknown, or, at worst, known for putting things in private places in a very public way. A wise move by the company’s PR team? Hmmm, maybe!
Raising a Toast and Drowning Your Sorrows
Another apparent hit with the masses in recent years is the Foster’s parody ads. Although most beer-loving Aussies would rather drink Kangaroo stuff (or a white wine spritzer) than touch a Foster’s, the company has been pushing the virtues of the brand around the world using a multitude of national stereotypes. Despite often being a poor parody of life Down Under, the appearance of Holly Valance in a recent campaign did help the brand.
While her singing voice and acting skills might be somewhat questionable, she’s certainly a looker and when you’re trying to sell beer to millions of glassy-eyed males there are few better people to use than Valance.
Again, however, for every homerun there’s a swing and a miss and Uma Thurman’s 2011 Schweppes commercial falls firmly into the latter category. The former sex symbol certainly doesn’t look too bad on camera (thanks to a ton of make-up), but the frankly bizarre dialogue and confusing link between sex and fizzy water makes this one a real howler. Sure, it got people talking about the brand and Thurman, but not necessarily in a positive way.
A Questionable Formula for Success
When he’s not finishing second (or fifth) behind Lewis Hamilton or looking for a new team, Jenson Button has no problem pimping himself out to any major brand that wants his help. Although he’s now successfully ‘repping’ Santander Bank, he was once guilty of car crash TV with his endorsement of Head and Shoulders. An embarrassing concept and no actual link between the product and the dialogue made this advert one that Button should want to forget in a hurry.
Thankfully, while Button was linking up across the tarmac with Head and Shoulders, Damon Hill was out there doing his best to revive the flagging reputation of F1 drivers. Back when he was the nearly man of Formula 1, Hill joined legendary commentator Murray Walker in a Pizza Hut commercial. Although some of the commentary is a little awkward, the jab Walker throws at Hill in the final seconds of the video does raise a smile.
When it comes to celebrity endorsements, some hit the mark and others miss by a mile. Choosing the safe route like 32Red and sticking with a daytime TV hero or choosing a national icon like Hugh Jackman is one way to ensure your brand doesn’t ruffle any feathers. Of course, if you want to annoy James Bond and cause a stir then there are clearly dozens of celebrities willing to do anything you ask for the right price. Whether it’s awkward speeches or weird anti-dandruff shampoo ads, it’s clear that some celebrities really will do anything.