10 of the Oddest Celebrity Food Endorsements

·7 min read
Screenshot:  Heinz/YouTube
Screenshot: Heinz/YouTube

Food companies always seem to have disposable income for celebrity endorsements, and celebrities need the big checks that food companies can provide—it’s one of those capitalist symbiotic relationships. But just because big money is involved doesn’t mean that the endorsements make sense.

These collaborations drive revenue, especially among Gen-Z, who are more likely to buy a product if their favorite celebrity endorses it. According to The New York Times, combining a food item with a celebrity endorsement drives engagement on social media like TikTok and Instagram. Many of these endorsements are not creative, but rather a cynical combination of popular celebs and already well-known foods. (Just think about the waves of celebrity McDonald’s meals.) So in the spirit of weird collaborations, here are some of the oddest celebrity food endorsements.

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Drake and Sprite

Sprite has a long history of leveraging hip-hop stars for brand awareness. In fact, the lemon-lime pop has gotten multiple endorsements from rappers over decades, from A Tribe Called Quest in the 1990s to Lil Yachty and Vince Staples in the 2010s. But when Drake signed on to be in a Sprite commercial, he would leave an indelible mark on the ad’s audience. In the spot, Drake takes a sip of the soda from his recording booth, and it unleashes bionic Drake, his human features popping off his body to reveal a metallic, computerized being underneath. We even see the Sprite coursing through his mechanized skeleton, which somehow gives him power (instead of destroying the complex artificial inner workings) and allow him to spit his iconic line from “Forever”.

Ed Sheeran and Heinz Ketchup

If Brits and Americans are usually at odds regarding food, at least both can agree on ketchup. So in 2019, Heinz, the most famous purveyor of the sweet tomato-based sauce, collaborated with Ed Sheeran to celebrate National Ketchup Day. They created “Edchup,” which is exactly like Ketchup but with a spoof name that almost makes sense. The best part is definitely the image of the tomato on the bottle, which has Sheeran’s recognizable mop of hair and rectangular glasses. “Shape of You” takes on a completely different meaning when you realize Sheeran is describing a woman with a sexy Ketchup Bottle Body.

Mikhail Gorbachev and Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut has always been adept at getting its product in front of audiences. I just re-watched Wayne’s World and remembered that The Hut was involved in the movie’s famous product placement spoof. But another 1990s advertisement has seen a rise in popularity recently, starring the former leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. When Gorbachev passed, his endorsement of the American pizza brand was revived. Now if only Vladimir Putin’s commercial for Blaze Pizza can make it onto the small screen…

Steve Carrell and Brown’s Chicken

For anyone who wants to understand how the entertainment business works– look to this 1990s commercial starring a pre-fame Steve Carrell. For almost every aspiring actor, the path to success is lined with unglamorous work like auditioning for silly, low-stakes commercials, hoping that getting cast can pay rent until that mythologized big break. And for most actors, those commercials end up being the apex of their careers. That isn’t the case though for Brown’s Chicken most famous spokesperson, who was just a young comedian in Chicago doing sketch comedy. Watching the ad now makes me feel like I’m living in an un-reality. But this isn’t a spoof, just one of those incredible artifacts.

Method Man and Sour Patch Kids

While I’m not sure why Method Man got tapped to promote Sour Patch Kids, it is an undeniable success. Method Man recorded an original song called “World Gone Sour (The Lost Kids).” And it’s not bad?? It’s…. dare I say… pretty good??? It’s one thing to give a celebrity a check and put them in front of a camera for a day, anyone can do that. But to create original content is actually pretty cool.

Ozzy Osborne and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! is one of those foods (is it a food?) that never made sense to me. I mean, I get that people want butter substitutes, but c’mon, that name is just terrible. It is silly, and so their marketing team had to match that silliness with brand spokesmen. In my research, I discovered that one celebrity used by ICBINB! was Fabio. And that makes sense! Beautiful people eating a “healthy” alternative? Perfect. But it doesn’t make as much sense when you include the Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osborne. Sure, Osborne had a media empire back in the 2000s, specifically a reality TV show. But it is jarring to see Ozzy endorse this product. I guess any Black Sabbath worth its salt has to have butter substitutes?

Michelle Williams and Brach’s Candy Corn

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Candy corn, like all polarizing things, has a way of bringing out extremes in people. People that don’t like candy corn will let you know! And people that do like candy corn (I like candy corn!) will let you know too. Add Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child fame to the latter category. She just released a soulful jingle to welcome the waxy, artificial delight. And just like Method Man, Williams’ tune is good! It makes the jump from silly novelty to surprisingly good as a standalone piece of music.

Paris Hilton and Carls Jr.

Man, the 2000s were weird, huh? Remember all the ads that paraded around almost-naked women? Or do I just remember them more vividly as someone who went through puberty in 2007? Well that was Carls Jr.’s marketing strategy back then—a “burgers and bikinis” scheme, because there is nothing more titillating than seeing a beautiful young woman wolfing down a 3,500-calorie colossus of beef and ketchup. Awooga! Maybe Carls Jr.’s most famous spot within this strategy was Paris Hilton’s, who washes a black Bentley in a black bikini before chowing down on a truly grotesque burger.

But whereas the TV ad at least lets the audience connect the dots, it is this print ad that really doesn’t allow for much interpretation. It is off-puttingly sexual, and “it’s going to get messy” doesn’t make me interested in either the burger or a hypothetical tryst with Ms. Hilton. According to Australia’s Marketing Magazine, in 2018 Jason Marker (CEO of Carls Jr’s parent company CKE) was quoted as saying that the fast food chain has “100% stepped away from that burgers and bikinis strategy….The truth is over time it became less successful commercially as an advertising strategy, secondly it became less appropriate.” Better late than never!

Eli Manning, Eric Andre, and Frank’s Red Hot NFT/Bone Coin

Getting Eli Manning for an endorsement is a great way of saying that you weren’t able to get Peyton Manning. Now listen, it’s been a while since NFT’s were new, but that doesn’t mean that I understand them. I don’t! And I don’t really want to. Luckily, Frank’s Red Hot devised the most flabbergastingly confusing premise to accompany their celebrity spot.

In it, images of already-eaten chicken wing bones can be converted into “BoneCoin,” a spoof cryptocurrency. Whoever has the most BoneCoin receives Frank’s Red Hot NFT. Eli, who is a brand ambassador for Frank’s, as well as Eric Andre (a noted NFT guy) were both on board to drum up support. A silly idea with silly people. Write the checks!

Seinfeld’s Jackie Chiles and Snyder’s Pretzels

What’s odd about this is that there is an entire Seinfeld episode about pretzels. In the episode, Kramer gets a bit-part in a Woody Allen movie filming nearby, and his line in the film is “These pretzels are making me thirsty!” How many pretzel references can a long-running sitcom even have? But I’m not mad, because Jackie Chiles (Phil Morris) is probably the funniest recurring Seinfeld character, and this spoof of Johnny Cochran is hilarious, plus Morris deserves work!

Still, this collaboration just doesn’t fully add up. Hanover’s conceit is that their smashed-up pretzels are simply too flavor-packed to be lumped in with other pretzels. And their marketing scheme is playing off the litigious nature of Jackie Chiles. I’m a fan, but I gotta say, it makes almost no sense.