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Celebrity Endorsements and Their Potential for False Advertising

American companies have long relied up on celebrity endorsements to sell consumer goods. An example is the 1942 Kool-Aid advertisement below:

Advertising Hollywood Screen Star Patricia Morison Says:

‘Kool-Aid is such a convenient beverage, so easy to make.  Everyone enjoys its delightful flavor!’

While this statement by a movie star to help sell a product was not “false advertising” in a legal sense, it is an interesting example of a celebrity endorsement.

The ad’s representation that “Kool-Aid is flavorful and satisfying,” is also not false advertising.

However, the statement “Kool-Aid’s manufacturing facilities are contributing to the nutritional requirements of the armed-forces,” may have been misleading or literally false. 

The 1960 Camel cigarette advertisement below capitalizes on a football star’s fame and popularity to sell a carcinogenic product that interferes with lung function.

“For rich flavor, my choice is Camels.”

Dick Nolan DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD STAR OF THE N.Y. GIANTS

Some advertisements simply associate a product with the name and face of a famous person, which is in itself a form of product endorsement. For example, this 2021 Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes advertisement (on the product itself) has a large photograph of basketball player Shaquille O’Neal.  The cereal box says “SHAQ HAS JOINED TONY’S TEAM TO HELP SAVE SCHOOL SPORTS.  Enter for a chance to win a trip to the Celebrity Crunch Classic and you could see them both in action!”

Shaquille O’Neal’s status in the sports world means his product endorsements carry extra weight. Shaq is not just a famous basketball player – he is one of the greatest NBA players of all time, and “probably the most dominant physical force in league history.” I don’t expect any false advertising class actions about this advertisement involving Shaquille O’Neil – or Tony the Tiger for that matter (although the latter has been involved in decades of litigation over trademark controversies).

Coming Soon:

Football’s “Golden Boy” Tom Brady is “arguably the best quarterback to ever play in the NFL.”

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