It’s a working class sham
When done properly, a celebrity endorsement can literally make a company. The most famous example is when then third string sportswear company Nike (behind Adidas and Converse) signed first year NBA player Michael Jordan in 1984.
Jordan had just been picked third in the NBA draft after centers Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie, but Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight really liked the free-scoring Jordan and courted him personally.
When Jordan signed, Nike’s stock price was below 60 cents. When he finished his first three-peat in 1993, Nike’s stock price was $8.80 and now the biggest sportswear company in the world. When Jordan announced that he was retiring from basketball a few months later, Nike stock sunk to $5.20 and when he sent out his famous two-word “I’m back” press release, Nike stock surged again.
There are a few great current endorsements too. The Robin Williams Legend of Zelda advertisement reminds us that Nintendo have been making great games as long as Williams has been making cute children and without the foul-mouthed Danny McBride K-Swiss advertisements we’d have no idea that K-Swiss is still actually a trading company.
But fundamental idea of celebrity endorsement (I’m good at throwing balls or pretending to be other people so you should like the products I get paid to promote) is like the idea of jet travel- if it wasn’t so prevalent, it’d be preposterous. I mean, are we really meant to take financial advice from Simon Baker? (Or his character in The Mentalist/ him channeling his character in The Mentalist/ him channeling a character close to the character in The Mentalist but not so close that they don’t breach any intellectual property laws/ whatever the hell is going on in those ANZ ads?) And like jet travel, when celebrity endorsement goes wrong, it goes great-balls-of-fire wrong. Like this ad where recovering alcoholic Jimmy Barnes shills alcopop for Wild Turkey.
I don’t blame Barnsey, I believe a man’s allowed to make a living how he chooses, but it seems odd that Wild Turkey’s Australian distributor The Campari Group would have their $4 million campaign fronted by as man whose battle against alcoholism is one of the most famous in Australian music.
The term “two bottles of vodka a day,” is in almost every piece you’ll read about the Chisel front man. After that you’ll probably read “Buddhism” then “cardiac surgery.”
Being a member of the zipper club myself it’s likely that Barnsey’s cardiologist has suggested that he limit his alcohol, caffeine and sugar intake. Not chug all three together in one chilled 375ml receptacle.
I have no idea about Jimmy Barnes current drinking habits, he might have come so far along the recovery trail that he can have a couple of alcoholic drinks and stop, but if that’s the case I don’t know about it. But, like everyone else, I know about the alcoholism.
Drinking is a problem in this country, especially the punching, driving and organ-corroding that can come because of it and booze companies are usually incredibly sensitive about that. If you ever work with these companies, you’ll be poking your way around labyrinthine internal marketing policies in regards to cars, minors, health and really famous reformed alcoholics. Usually. But I guess this time a brand manager with a lot of sway just really wanted to meet Barnsey.
I don’t think it’s irresponsible, I just think it’s ineffective. As soon I saw that ad my first thought wasn’t ‘that ad for Wild Turkey was funny,’ it was ‘why is Barnsey selling bourbon?’ The answer of course, instantly comes to mind, the underlying foundation of all celebrity endorsement and the concept advertisers surely want to keep as far away from possible.
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