Celebrities using their status to sell things is of course nothing new, but you may be surprised by what some have endorsed over the years!
Below are some of the most brilliant celebrity endorsements of all time – even if the celebs themselves might look back on their product-hawking and blush.
Steven Seagal – Lightning Bolt energy drink
Steven Seagal has always been a quirky character, so it’s fitting that his commercial for his energy drink Lightning Bolt is pretty bizarre. In the ad, the action star with questionable hair is seen happily sipping energy drinks in a Hawaiian shirt by a pool when a stunning woman walks up and starts chatting to him about the product.
How does Seagal respond? He pushes her straight into the pool of course! Then he picks up the conversation again when the woman’s equally hot sister emerges from the house to also talk about her love for Seagal and his Lightning Bolt drink.
O.J. Simpson – Hertz
Let’s face it: nothing that features O.J. Simpson has aged well. Seeing the former pro-football player-turned-actor in a series of commercials for rental car company Hertz feels particularly awkward, given that the most famous footage of Simpson behind the wheel of a car is when he was fleeing from the cops in 1994.
The commercials often depicted how the stress of going on vacation affects even superstars, with Simpson running through an airport trying to make a flight, before collapsing into a rental car with relief. We suspect he wasn’t feeling quite that relieved when the police finally caught up with his white Ford Bronco all those years later.
The Flintstones – Winston cigarettes
Nowadays, the idea of a cartoon character advertising a brand that exists in real life seems completely ludicrous – especially when the product in question is cigarettes. Not only that, but the idea that someone would ever greenlight a cigarette promotion in the middle of a cartoon beloved by children seems even more unbelievable and irresponsible.
Yet that’s exactly what happened in 1961, when a Flintstones episode aired in which Fred and Wilma had a smoke break together. The Flintstones was not the only television show in which Winston cigarettes appeared either, as the brand also popped up on sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies.
Mikhail Gorbachev – Pizza Hut
If you were to make a list of all the famous figures most likely to do a public endorsement of a fast food chain, former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev would probably be near the bottom. Nevertheless, the politician made history when he appeared in a Pizza Hut advert in 1998, which was filmed at the instantly recognisable Red Square in Moscow.
As if that weren’t unbelievable enough, the advert features various Russian patrons sitting in a Pizza Hut in Moscow, arguing over Gorbachev’s political legacy after they notice him walk in and order a pizza with his (real-life) granddaughter. By far the weirdest thing is that the advert aired all over the world, but did not air in Russia, for fear that Gorbachev would face serious backlash.
Ozzy Osbourne – I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter have had more than their fair share of hilarious celebrity endorsements over the years, from Eva Longoria to the always shirtless Fabio. However, none of the margarine company’s collaborations have ever drawn so much attention as when they called upon Black Sabbath frontman-turned-reality TV icon Ozzy Osbourne.
It’s a suitably odd commercial, with Ozzy cracking eggs off of skulls whilst being lit up by the heavenly light of the fridge, only adding to the loveable and eccentric persona he had already cultivated. There’s no explanation for the multiple Ozzy Osbournes in the commercial, though. Maybe having a cloning machine is one of the perks that come along with being a rock star.
Muhammad Ali – roach traps
D-Con must have sold a lot of Roach Traps to be able to afford to hire boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who stars in possibly the most bizarre celebrity endorsement on this list. D-Con promise to kill roaches without using poison, and we trust that they don’t also lay waste to floating butterflies or stinging bees.
Ali’s somewhat serious, politically conscious persona made it a little weird to see him advertising roach traps, but that didn’t stop him from doing a number of D-Con print ads, as well as filmed commercials for the company. Then again, just around the corner was the 80s, a decade that would become famous for athletes taking on promotional work like never before.
Katy Perry – The Sims 3
Nowadays, gaming is considered a pretty common and cool hobby, so collaborations between famous influencers and the latest console, game or accessory are everywhere. Back in 2009, though, nerd culture still hadn’t hit the mainstream, so it was a pretty big moment when one of the modern queens of pop started collaborating with games studio EA.
At the time there were numerous tie-in products for Perry’s latest album, from pencil cases to costumes, but maybe the weirdest of all was her Sims 3 package. Sims players could buy an expansion pack that featured costumes, hairstyles and homeware all based around the candy world from Katy Perry’s California Gurls music video.
Kim Kardashian – Charmin toilet paper
Kim Kardashian has been one of the most famous women on the planet for years, but while some may consider her the embodiment of glamour, there was a time when not every brand on Earth was tripping over itself to work with her. Back in 2010, Kardashian had to accept collaborations with products that didn’t perfectly align with her personal brand.
That’s how we ended up with the hilarity of Kim opening a public bathroom in New York, with an engraved glass key provided by Charmin, the toilet paper company. Kardashian still looks beautiful, but it is funny to see her get hundreds of pictures taken in front of a cute cartoon bear snuggling toilet paper.
Kathy Griffin – Squatty Potty
Stand-up comedians, particularly those who use edgy material that courts controversy, are not often chosen to represent popular products, so it’s surprising that anyone would choose outspoken comedian and actor Kathy Griffin to represent their brand. Still, Griffin was oddly fitting for Squatty Potty, whose commercial saw Griffin march down a street telling people to stop being “so full of s**t”.
Despite Squatty Potty chasing an edgy tone in these commercials, they still eventually realised that Griffin was too much for them. The toilet stool company unceremoniously dropped Griffin in 2017, thanks to some controversial photographs the comedian took involving the then-US President.
Brad Pitt – Pringles
By the early 90s, Brad Pitt was an emerging heartthrob well on his way to superstardom – but every actor has to start somewhere, and Pitt started out as the face of a 1988 Pringles commercial. The deliciously 80s Pringles advert came out the same year that Pitt had his first-ever credited film role, in little-seen Yugoslavian drama The Dark Side of the Sun.
So what do you do when you’ve worked your way up past playing unnamed characters in the backgrounds of scenes but aren’t yet ready for your first professional acting credit? You get shirtless in a Pringles advert and pretend to have a potato chip-fueled party on the beach with hundreds of other attractive teenagers, of course!
Mr. T – Flavorwave oven
The legendary Mr. T became a superstar off the back of Rocky III and TV’s The A-Team, and while he’s never enjoyed the same acting success since, he’s done plenty of commercials over the years. Perhaps his weirdest professional choices came in 2010, when he endorsed the Flavorwave oven.
Mr. T gladly appeared in a lengthy, QVC-style infomercial for the portable halogen cooker, which promised “double the flavour in half the time”. Sadly, this collaboration did not see the anything like the same success as the similar George Foreman Grill. (Be honest, had you ever even heard of the Flavorwave oven before reading this?)
Hulk Hogan – Pastamania
Of all the brands that legendary professional wrestler Hulk Hogan could have chosen to create at the height of his fame, he chose Pastamania (a play on his ‘Hulkamania’ slogan). Hogan opened his first Pastamania restaurant in a Mall of America in Minnesota, on Labor Day in 1995.
Unfortunately, the restaurant didn’t become the flagship for a highly successful chain that Hogan imagined, and it closed less than a year later in 1996 – but this was neither his first nor his last tangle with product endorsement. Hogan now has an energy drink named after him, as well as a line of burgers, nutrition products and even a beach!
Snoop Dogg – Hot Pockets
When Snoop Dogg first broke big in music in the early 90s he had a pretty gritty, dangerous reputation, but it’s fair to say that Snoop’s brand has softened since then. In 2012, the rapper re-recorded his popular song Drop it Like It’s Hot into Pocket Like it’s Hot, for a Hot Pockets commercial.
The parody and accompanying music video, which featured a Hot Pocket in a fur coat and sunglasses rapping inside a microwave, promptly went viral. In the years since, Snoop has enjoyed another high-profile endorsement deal in the UK, rapping in commercials for Just Eat.
Penélope Cruz – Nintendo DS
In 2012, Penélope Cruz was considered one of the world’s most famous and glamourous actresses, so she isn’t necessarily the first person you’d expect to see in a Nintendo commercial. Nonetheless, she was joined by her sister Monica Cruz appeared in a quirky ad for the Nintendo 3DS, the Spanish starlets competing in a game of Super Mario Bros.
Things take a particularly bizarre turn in the commercial’s closing moments, as Monica beats her elder sister, and it becomes apparent that a wager had been made around the game. So it is that we see Oscar-winning actress Penélope Cruz don a red sweater, blue dungarees, a big red cap and a fake moustache to do a Mario impersonation.
John Lydon – Country Life butter
Previously known as Johnny Rotten of controversial punk band the Sex Pistols, John Lydon is one of the most uncompromising, outspoken and unapologetic figures in the history of rock music. As such, it was very odd indeed to see him appearing in commercials for Country Life butter, wearing a smart tweed suit and waxing lyrical about his love of all things British.
It was a bold choice on the part of Country Life to choose one of the UK’s most famous punk figures to pose in front of a field of cows for their commercials. Lydon, for his part, has since claimed he only did the commercials to fund the recording of an album with his long-standing band Public Image Limited.
Whoopi Goldberg – Poise bladder control pads
Some celebs only lend their name to the most prestigious items, but there are some brands and products that will always be seen as less than glamorous but which rely on celebrities to get the message out. Take Whoopi Goldberg, who at 55 years old decided to team up with Poise bladder control pads to speak about the normality of incontinence in women.
As if wanting to make what could potentially be an embarrassing topic of discussion as grandiose and impressive as possible, Whoopi Goldberg talked about leak-proof underwear while dressed as some of history’s most legendary female figures including Eve, Joan of Arc, Cleopatra, Mona Lisa and the Statue of Liberty.
Jackie Chan – Woolworths
Perhaps strangest thing that department store brand Woolworths has ever done came in 2008, when they created an advert to promote their low-priced jeans and T-shirts. For seemingly no reason, the advert starred Jackie Chan, who called attention to the nakedness of the Woolworths puppet mascots and then sent them away to buy clothes.
While one mascot went off in search of clothing, the other one seemed to confuse the Chinese kung fu master with fictional Japanese karate master Mr. Miyagi. Not only that, but the other mascot returns with no jeans or T-shirts and is instead wearing a WWE costume, in which he proceeds to do battle with Chan.
David Beckham – Burger King
As one of the world’s most famous (and handsome) sportsmen, David Beckham has picked up scores of endorsement deals over the years, but maybe the weirdest one came in 2012 when he made a Burger King. Rather than promoting the fast food chain’s less-than healthy burgers, Beckham was brought in to promote Burger King’s new range of fruit smoothies
Hilariously, the advert shows Beckham being taught how a smoothie is made by a Burger King employee, only make the dumb mistake of turning on the blender without the lid, spraying himself and everybody else with liquid strawberry. Naturally, this leads the (female) BK employee begging Beckham to remove his soiled shirt.
Keanu Reeves – Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
Keanu Reeves hit the big time in the late 80s in quirky goofball comedy Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which established him as a premier Gen-X icon. It feels weird, then, to see him around that time starring in a wholesome Corn Flakes advert, in which he does nothing more than eat a bowl of cereal and gaze into the camera.
With his fluffy 80s hair and impeccable suit and bowtie, Reeves no doubt convinced a legion of teen girls to have Corn Flakes for breakfast the next morning. We’re not sure how Reeves manages to eat them, though, because – as he told us in The Matrix – there is no spoon.
Matt LeBlanc – Heinz ketchup
Several years before Friends, Matt LeBlanc first caught the eye of TV audiences worldwide in a strange yet memorable 1987 commercial for Heinz tomato ketchup. The ad sees LeBlanc eager to avoid paying for ketchup on his hot dog at all costs, so he balances an open ketchup bottle on the roof of a New York building and keeps it in place with a brick.
LeBlanc then runs back down to the ground, orders his plain hotdog from a stand, and gets the last laugh when a perfect line of tomato sauce falls out of the air. The question is, what happened after that? Did a whole bottle of ketchup empty itself onto the ground? Did he even go back to retrieve the bottle?!
Helen Mirren – Wii Fit
Penélope Cruz isn’t the only Oscar winner to make a Nintendo commercial. Legendary actress Helen Mirren surprised the world when she went to bat for the video game company in 2006, endorsing Nintendo’s new Wii console, or at the very least Wii Fit, in a sweet and simple advert that still manages to be pretty funny.
It’s no doubt believable that Mirren (aged 61 at the time) is devoting to keeping fit, but the commercial is still unbelievable in little ways. Why would Mirren have an alcove in her wall specifically for a Wii console? Why is the console not plugged into anything? Why is her living room so beige?
Bob Dylan – Victoria’s Secret
When iconic lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret chose to pick a celebrity to partner up with for their 2004 commercial, you might have anticipated them choosing someone young, or at the very least female. Not only that, but they chose a musician that you definitely wouldn’t traditionally associate with lingerie at all: folk-rock pioneer Bob Dylan.
That’s right, Victoria’s Secret released a lingerie commercial set in Venice, in which models dreamily wandered through old buildings while the romantic canals flowed past in the background. Except, periodically, footage of the models gazing sultrily into the camera was interrupted by close-ups of Bob Dylan’s face, as he grumpily plays piano and looks vaguely confused.
John Cena – Crocs
The whole point of advertisements featuring celebrities is to make the brand in question feel more aspirational and thus desirable to the average person – and the less desirable a brand or product considered, the less likely a celebrity is to risk collaborating with it. That’s why the collaboration between famously uncool shoe brand Crocs and John Cena is so delightfully surprising.
Curiously, the wrestler-turned-actor’s commercial goes to lengths to not mention Crocs at all. Instead, the ad just has Cena talk about his past experiences with bullying while he wears a pair of Crocs trainers that definitely don’t look like Crocs. The idea is that viewers will get the association, as Crocs has historically been “bullied” as a brand, but it’s still a very weird approach.
Justin Bieber – OPI Nails
Nowadays, Justin Bieber is hardly the definition of brand safe. Shortly after his meteoric rise to fame came a spate of very public bad behaviour, leading to many possible endorsement deals vanishing. At his peak, though, many brands wanted to leverage the purchasing power of Bieber’s then-huge teenage girl fanbase, leading to his collaboration with OPI Nails.
Bieber released a line of blue, purple and silver nail polishes, which was called The One Less Lonely Girl Collection, in the most on-the-nose move possible. There’s no telling how many teen girls showed up to Justin Bieber concerts with sparkly purple nails in the following months, but it was his first and last foray into nail polish design.
Tom Hiddleston – Centrum multivitamins
When it comes to weird commercials featuring celebrities, there is only one advert worthy of taking the top spot, and that’s the Tom Hiddleston Centrum advert. This advert for a multivitamin company aired in China and was received super well, even though many people have drawn attention to the fact that it’s actually pretty creepy.
The advert features an odd POV in which we wake up in the body of a woman and walk downstairs to see Tom Hiddleston inexplicably making us breakfast. Weirder still, it’s shot in the vertical phone camera format, making it feel even more like we have kidnapped Tom Hiddleston and are filming him as he goes about his day, working as our own personal assistant. Yikes.
Kyle MacLachlan – Ruffles
These days actor Kyle MacLachlan is a respected if fairly low-profile character actor, but for a short time at the start of the 1990s he was the biggest TV star around, thanks to his role as FBI Agent Dale Cooper on groundbreaking detective drama Twin Peaks. It made a certain sense, then, that MacLachlan would cash in on the popularity of that persona at its peak.
Twin Peaks fans might have anticipated Cooper being used to sell coffee or cherry pie, but instead MacLachlan recreated the character on an ad for Walkers Ruffles, noting that the potato crisps are broken up into little “peaks,” and concluding that they’re “darn fine crisps.”
Harvey Keitel – Direct Line Insurance
When Harvey Keitel started working with writer-director Quentin Tarantino in the early 90s, it helped revive the actor’s career. What no one could have expected, however, was that it would lead to Keitel appearing in a long running series of British TV commercials for home, vehicle and contents insurance.
Keitel recreated the role of Pulp Fiction’s cucumber-cool problem solver Mr. Wolf in ads for Direct Line, running from 2014 to 2020. Tarantino was reportedly not keen on the idea; Direct Line’s marketing manager Mark Evans recalls witnessing “Tarantino [and] Harvey Keitel at the Cannes Film festival debating the virtues of doing car insurance advertising in the UK,” before the director finally consented.
Robert De Niro – the Kia Niro
Once upon a time, the name Robert De Niro was synonymous with artistic integrity. Alas, since about the turn of the century the seven-time Oscar-nominated actor and two-time winner has been a lot less choosy about what he says yes to, including a commercial for a car which happens to have a name that sounds like his.
The advert shows De Niro dressed like a young hipster on the misunderstanding that the director wanted a ‘trendy De Niro,’ when in fact the director simply wants to highlight the trendiness of the Kia Niro.
Billy Corgan – Walter E. Smithe Furniture/Resistance Pro Wrestling
You probably know Billy Corgan as the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of 90s alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins. However, you might not have known that when he’s not shredding solos and screeching angsty lyrics, Corgan is also a massive pro-wrestling fan. He even founded his own wrestling promotion, Resistance Pro Wrestling, in 2011.
As a promotional exercise for RPW, Corgan and a number of his most colourful wrestlers appeared in a commercial for furniture company Walter E. Smithe, doing battle in the ring with the furniture store’s executives. Just as a wrestler is about to do the classic chair strike move, Corgan dramatically calls time out, explaining with alarm, “that’s a Walter E. Smithe chair!” A strange spectacle indeed.
Eric Roberts – American Standard Walk-In Tubs
Actor Eric Roberts isn’t exactly known for turning work down. With 700 credits to his name at the time of writing, the elder brother of Julia Roberts and one-time Oscar nominee for Runaway Train is possibly the most prolific screen actor in history. Even so, his endorsement deal for American Standard Walk-In Tubs is a bit of an eye-opener.
There may be a certain logic to a man in his late 60s endorsing a product intended to bring comfort to those suffering physical ailments later in life. Yet the whole spectacle comes off so bizarre, particularly in an informercial in which Roberts lists the tub as one of the five things he’s most grateful for, alongside “my wife, my kids, my career and my horse,” insisting the tub is “that awesome!”