Six celebrity endorsements that have gone badly wrong

14th Mar 2014

This week, world-famous American basketball player, LeBron James, sent out a panicked tweet to his 12 million-strong following, announcing his mobile had just crashed and deleted all his information. Well, we'd all be in a bit of a flap, too. However, as a large proportion of the global population knows, LeBron James’ mobile is a Galaxy Note III – the phone which he is being paid to endorse by Samsung.


Securing a well-known – and preferably well-liked – famous face to back your marketing campaign can seem like the answer to all your PR prayers. The brand gets publicity, the celebrity gets publicity, they’re both quids in and it's happy faces all round. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

A lot. A lot can go wrong.

In among all the interviews, public appearances and paparazzi snaps, there are ample opportunities for a slip up. And if that wasn’t enough, let’s throw social media into the mix for good measure, too. Some celebs are notorious – and pretty well-loved – for tweeting before they think, and those under contract are no exception.

This week’s incident is just the latest in a long line of celebrity endorsement fails. Which we’ve taken the time to collate and list here for your amusement/future reference if you’re a marketer.  

1. LeBron James' malfunction  

First things first. Here is LeBron’s broadcast of his product’s failings. He quickly deleted the tweet, but with 12 million followers he had no hope of it going unnoticed. LeBron later followed up with a reassuring tweet that he'd got all of his information back. So there is a happy ending. Well, in a way. 









2. Becks blames it on a buddy

Well, at least LeBron was actually using the product he was advertising. David Beckham gave his face to the Motorola’s £14,00 mobile, Aura, a few years ago. "When you hold it, it feels like you have something really special in your hand," he said. Not as special as a the rival iPhone apparently, which he was promptly papped with at a casual lunch. He whipped it out of sight under the table just as he realised there was a camera about, while his spokesperson later stressed that David didn’t even own an iPhone, and had simply been holding his friend’s. A likely story. 

3. Charlize runs out of time

Charlize Theron found herself in an even sticker situation when she substituted her endorsed product for a competitor’s. Designer Raymond Weil paid the model and actress for rights to her wrists for two years, so she could wear only his watches. Theron did not play by the rules though, and went to a press conference wearing a Dior watch. Gasp. That didn’t go down too well with Weil, who went onto seek £12 million in compensation.

4. Ronaldinho gets the (Coke) can 

Ronaldinho, the world-famous Brazilian soccer star, came a cropper with Coca-Cola in 2012, much to his bank manager’s dismay. While making an appearance at a press conference for his new sporting team, the footballer dared to sip from a can of Pepsi. Shudder. This proved to be a deal-breaker for Coca-Cola, with whom he had into entered into a rather lucrative sponsorship deal. The contract was supposed to run until this year, but instead, Coke canned Ronaldinho, stomping off with his £1 million worth of unpaid earnings.

5. Sun Yang in deep water

These sports stars are all at it, it seems. Chinese London Olympic gold medallist, Sun Yang, got himself into a bit of trouble with car manufacturer, Hyundai. And the police. The celebrity athlete was unfortunately involved in an RTA, while he unfortunately happened to be driving a Porsche. But neither of those are the most unfortunate factors for the little scally. It transpired that actually obtaining a driving license before getting behind the wheel of a competitor’s vehicle seemed to have slipped the 22-year-old’s mind. Sun Yang still hasn’t got round to passing his test, and Hyundai has the authorities all up in its grill for false advertising after airing their commercial featuring the swimmer driving its car.

6. Winfrey loses

Another technological mishap comes courtesy of Oprah Winfrey. And isn't it a beast of a blunder. She said she’d promote Microsoft’s Surface tablet, and to give her her due, promote it she did. On her Apple iPad. Oops.


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