Celebrity Food Endorsements: the Good and the Bad

The Lempert Report
July 29, 2016

We take a look at healthy vs. unhealthy celebrity endorsements.

We start with the good. FNV was launched by Partnership for a Healthier America along with a collaboration of companies, celebrities, athletes and organizations that to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. 

Ryan Shadrick Wilson, general counsel at Partnership for a Healthier America told attendees at the nonprofit’s Building a Healthier Future May 19 in Washington D.C. that with the help of celebrity spokespeople, including actresses Jessica Alba and Kristen Bell and athletes Victor Cruz and Cam Newton, in less than a year, the campaign delivered more than 350 million impressions on social media, 650 million impressions through earned media and the support of more than 70 celebrities, none of whom were paid a penny for their time. Still in a two-city pilot, they found that more than 70% of those aware of the campaign were inspired to eat more fruits and vegetables. 

The approach was a success, and unlike other attempts to make produce hip to a new generation FNV sold more produce without talking about its health benefits or guilt tripping people to eat healthier. They understood how to market. Wilson said they took “a page out of the playbook of the big brands and use the same successful marketing strategies and techniques they’ve always used ... but this time to launch FNV as both a reason to talk to Millennials about fruits and vegetables and a way to inspire them to think differently.” 

And then there is the bad. 

A new study by NYU Langone Medical Center has found that a majority of the food and drink products endorsed by celebrities are unhealthy, with this type of advertising contributing to the worrying rise in childhood and teen obesity according to researchers.

The data showed that 65 of the 163 celebrities, whose popularity and marketing appeal was identified by using Billboard Magazine's "Hot 100" song charts from 2013 and 2014 and by reviewing winners of the Teen Choice Award winners,

were associated with 57 different food and beverage brands. The researchers then assessed the nutritional value of the food products, finding that 21 out of 26 food products (81 percent) were considered "nutrient poor." None of the pop stars looked at in the study endorsed fruits, vegetables, or whole grains, with just one endorsing a natural, healthy food -- pistachios. Lead author Marie Bragg commented to Newsmax that "Research has already shown that food advertising leads to overeating, and the food industry spends $1.8 billion per year marketing to youth alone."

Perhaps we need to reach out to these endorsers and introduce them to the FNV campaign.