Celebrity Endorsements – Hypocrisy?
Looks like Beyonce has signed up with Pepsi to be its global brand ambassador for a cool $50 million, even though sugary sodas have time and again been linked with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and more.
This it seems, is not something Ms. Beyonce has thought of or is bothered with.
One wonders whether her daughter Blue Ivy will be brought up on junk food and sugary drinks. My guess is that she will not – after all, all parents know that high saturated fat and sugar in processed fast food is a death knell to a healthy life, but then, Beyonce will probably have an army of nutritionists and cooks paid for by her Pepsi endorsement to keep her daughter healthy.
And that is where celebrity endorsements can become dangerous for the general population.
All brand names know that in order to be highly visible and desirable, you find a high profile celebrity that is more or less in tandem with your brand (eg: watches for sport celebrities, luxury handbags for high profile socialites or movie stars) and pay them handsomely to bestow that star power to your brand.
In fact, one in four ads now is endorsed by a celebrity, up from one in eight in 1995. That’s the power of a celebrity star.
Pepsi knows this and have time and again used high profile celebrity endorsements for their brand.
In 2011, Britney Spears (another mother with young children) was the face of Pepsi. Pepsi wants to convey sexiness, a wholesome image and someone who is successful and at the top of their profession – in other words, they want global appeal, credibility, constancy and lasting appeal.
This year, you have it with Beyonce.
Writes Mark Bittman in the New York Times :
Knowles is renting her image to a product that may one day be ranked with cigarettes as a killer we were too slow to rein in. From saying, as she once did in referring to Let’s Move, that she was “excited to be part of this effort that addresses a public health crisis,” she’s become part of an effort that promotes a public health crisis. I suppose it would be one thing if she needed the money or the exposure but she and Jay-Z are worth around $775 million.
Writes Dr. Mercola :
Big Pharma has become one of the most powerful influences in the US, if not the world, because of effective marketing. Ditto for the junk food and soda industries. In short, advertising works, and with the right celebrity endorsement, you could sell ice to an Eskimo… The Center for Science in the Public Interest is now urging Beyonce to reconsider her collaboration with Pepsi. In a letter to the star, CSPI writes5:
“More than any other category of food or beverage, sugary drinks are associated with increased risk of weight gain and obesity, which increase the risk of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease… In fact, each additional sugary drink consumed per day increases the likelihood of a child becoming obese by 60 percent. Each soda consumed per day increases the risk of heart disease in men by 19 percent. Drinking one or two sugary drinks per day increases one’s risk for type 2 diabetes by 25 percent…
You occupy a unique position in the cultural life of this country and are an inspiring role model for millions of young people. Your image is one of success, health, talent, fitness and glamour. But by lending your name and image to PepsiCo, you are associating those positive attributes with a product that is quite literally sickening Americans.”
Again, while artists want to be respected for their creative and artistic visions, it sure would be nice if more of them would embrace the responsibilities (unwanted as they may be) that come with being a high-profile personality and role model, especially if they have a younger audience, like Beyonce…
The List of Celebrity Endorsements Is Long
However, before we pillar Beyonce for her role in promoting a health hazard, there is a whole string of high profile A-listers who are nowhere near whiter than snow.
Other soda health bomb endorsers include the obsessively health conscious Madonna; the queens of pop Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera (who both recently look as if they have had too many sugary drinks themselves), David Beckham (who should know better – wonder if Victoria drinks the stuff) and many others…
Until we learn to switch off our desire to emulate these stars, brand names will only strengthen their marketing efforts to stamp their brands into our minds through celebrity endorsements. When you think of children as young as three years old being able to identify junk food brands, that’s when this all becomes super scary.