The Rise Of Celebrity Branding

The Rise Of Celebrity Branding

By Daniel Morgan

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     Celebrity product endorsements are nothing new and can be traced back as far as the mid 1700s, when endorsements from Royals was all it took to get a product to fly off the shelves. Three hundred years later, not many royals are left. In lieu of monarchs, celebrities are the new royalty—handing out endorsements for a variety of products. From burgers and cars to ointments and medications, it is not hard to look at pop culture and the ever-increasing media coverage of celebrities and find them sporting a company’s logo or talking up a product on television.
     Celebrity product endorsements are nothing new and can be traced back as far as the mid 1700s, when endorsements from Royals was all it took to get a product to fly off the shelves. Three hundred years later, not many royals are left. In lieu of monarchs, celebrities are the new royalty—handing out endorsements for a variety of products. From burgers and cars to ointments and medications, it is not hard to look at pop culture and the ever-increasing media coverage of celebrities and find them sporting a company’s logo or talking up a product on television.
     We are constantly bombarded with advertising and marketing material, which is even more enticing when we see our favorite athletes and television personalities giving it a glowing recommendation. Many may attempt to emulate their idols by buying these products. “If it’s good enough for Shaq, it’s good enough for me!” This marketing concept has been used to sell thousands of products with some impressive success. Claims have been made that one celebrity endorsement can see an average 4% increase in sales almost immediately, according to Social Media Week.
     Celebrity endorsements from those most beloved by the public stand to make the biggest impact. When the majority of consumers have positive feelings toward a celebrity, an endorsement deal could lead to an increase in profit margins, as well as stock prices for the company as a whole—should the endorsement be well received.
     There are some risks that can come with celebrity endorsements. Should a celebrity fall out of favor with the public, consumers are less likely to purchase their endorsed products. When the scandal surrounding Tiger Woods’ marriage infidelity surfaced, Accenture, which had been one of his sponsors for six years, cut ties, to eliminate any negative impact his tarnished reputation would pose to their brand.
     If celebrity endorsements can sell microfiber towels, foot powder, tennis rackets and medications, what can they do for the cannabis industry?
Let’s face it. Some people are going to continue to buy into the anti-marijuana hype, but attitudes are changing. As medical studies continue to find benefits from cannabis use, those opinions will change more rapidly. The change could be even faster if celebrities were to publicly move toward a pro-cannabis stance.
     Some celebrities took this pro-cannabis stance long before legalization was a hot button issue. Anyone who follows the music industry knows that country star Willie Nelson has been an avid user of cannabis for decades. His willingness to be open about his use and the positive effects he sees may have changed a few minds along the way. Nelson has stated several times in interviews that smoking cannabis has helped him step away from decades of alcohol abuse.
     Wiz Khalifa recently signed an endorsement deal with a vendor to support a strain named after him. Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson have their own strains as well, and Snoop has come out with his own brand of vaporizer products. Even Melissa Etheridge has started a brand of “weed wine,” after finding that cannabis products helped her get through her fight with cancer.
Younger generations look to different musicians, such as Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa. Any millennial can probably remember the words to the classic “Because I Got High” by Afroman. Music and movies now showcase the use of marijuana; photos are often leaked of celebrities smoking. So why do we not see weed endorsement advertisements?
     Because only a few people are talking about it. With so much prohibition propaganda flooding the media about cannabis being dangerous, and decades of misinformed, indoctrinated ideas about what effect smoking has, many celebrities probably see any pro-cannabis endorsements as a death sentence to their career. Public opinion is what keeps the famous at the top, and a negative sway in that public opinion could set their professional lives on a crash course. Are more well-loved celebrities who are avid smokers hiding in the shadows? Without a doubt. However, until the negative stereotypes surrounding cannabis are dispelled, it is unlikely we will see those advertisements and endorsement deals go mainstream.
     What we need is a push from the celebrities. So many times, actors and musicians have banded together to take a stance on a social or political topic to show their support for a cause. If they were to band together and preach the positive aspects of cannabis use, their popularity with certain demographics might take a blow, but the awareness they would spread would snowball exponentially.  
      Celebrity endorsements have the potential to significantly sway the cannabis industry. As with all social movements, it must start with one person having the courage to stand out and ruffle the proverbial feathers. More important, the process will be perpetuated by the next pioneer who possesses the courage to stand beside them.