Actor Aamir Khan’s remarks on intolerance have claimed an unlikely victim— Snapdeal, the e-commerce website Khan endorses. Brand Snapdeal took a beating when angry users deleted the Snapdeal app from their phones, used hashtags #Appwapsi and #NoToSnapdeal in protest against what Khan had said.
This is not the first time though that brands have come under fire for associating with a particular celebrity. Here’s a list of 10 big global celebrity endorsement failures that came to haunt both the brands and the celebrities endorsing them.
The Paralympic sprinter from South Africa nicknamed ‘the blade runner’, ran like a bullet at the 2012 London Olympic Games. He was the face of multiple brands, cashing in on lucrative deals from Nike, Oakley and British telecom company BT. But all the endorsement deals vanished in February 2013 after the sprinter faced charges for shooting his girlfriend. Pistorius had reportedly been receiving more than $2 million annually in brand endorsements.
Following ace golfer Tiger Woods’ car accident in 2009 and his acknowledgement of marital infidelity, Woods’ sponsors cut ties with the golfer in 2009 and 2010. Gatorade, manufacturer of sports-themed beverage and food products, was the first to discontinue its association with Woods, followed by AT&T and Accenture, the other big brands that Woods endorsed. Late in 2010, Proctor & Gamble-owned Gillette, also cut ties with the golfer. It was reported that Woods saw $22 million vanish because of his indiscretions.
Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps, brand ambassador for multiple brands, came under fire after a picture in a tabloid showed him smoking pot at a party. Phelps saw his $500,000 deal with Kellogg’s go up in smoke, while Rosetta Stone and AT&T, the other big brands he endorsed, refused to renew their deals with him.
Actor Sharon Stone was dropped from all of Christian Dior’s Chinese advertisements after the actress made insensitive remarks regarding the devastating earthquake in China in 2008 that claimed the lives of over 68,000 people.
Her inappropriate remarks suggesting that the earthquake was a result of the country’s “bad karma" cost her dearly.
Family friendly brands Nutella and McDonald’s did not renew their contracts with Kobe Bryant after Bryant, the star of basketball team Los Angeles Lakers, was accused of rape in 2004.
Skier Bode Miller was flirting with stardom in 2006, riding high on multiple brand endorsements with magazine covers and $4 million in combined endorsements, with companies like Visa and Italian pasta company Barilla.
But he soon developed a reputation as a party animal at the Olympic Games, which drew negative press and was further ruined by his failure to win a single medal. Estimates put Miller’s losses after his no-win Olympics at $3 million in annual sponsorship deals, which was apparently enough to shock him into gear. He went on to win three medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
At the peak of the cola wars in 1989, PepsiCo signed a one-year contract with pop icon Madonna to star in a series of Pepsi commercials along with a concert tour. Paying the actress over $5 million to use her new song—Like a Prayer—in the ad, Pepsi premiered the commercial to almost 250 million people during a broadcast of American sitcom The Cosby Show. However, Madonna’s music video saw her witnessing a rape and gyrating around a burning cross, inciting huge controversy. Less than a month later, Pepsi pulled the spot and dropped Madonna like a ton of bricks.
Before football star O.J. Simpson became famous for allegedly murdering his former wife Nicole Brown and her friend, Ronald Goldman, the former football star was the face of Hertz rental cars. During the 1970s, Hertz paid Simpson a reported $550,000 for endorsing the brand. But when allegations of domestic abuse were reported in 1992, Hertz dumped Simpson.
The Australian cricketer was photographed smoking a puff in a Barbados bar, which brought an end to his $200,000 deal with Nicorette, the company that manufactures nicotine substitute. Warne was caught smoking just days before his contract with the nicotine substitute brand was due to end.
This was one endorsement that proved to be mutually disastrous! The face of women’s tennis in the late ’90s, Hingis signed a lucrative deal with Italian sportswear company, Sergio Tacchini, for five years, worth $5.6 million, until Tacchini realized Hingis wasn’t wearing his gear. While he fired her, she sued him with a $40 million lawsuit, claiming Tacchini’s shoes were the culprit for ankle injuries that affected her tennis career.