Retaining the services of a celebrity to hawk your products is a tradition as old as advertising itself. Celebrities from John Wayne to Michael Jordan have been paid handsomely to lend a familiar face to an advertising campaign, sometimes with spectacular results. Here’s a list of our favorite celebrity spokesmen.
Photo Credit: James Vaughan
William Shatner for Priceline.com
William Shatner has played many roles in his illustrious career, from starship captain to police sergeant to senile lawyer. He’s even cut a few albums, including the excellent Has Been in 2004. For the younger generation, though, perhaps his best-known role is that of the Priceline Negotiator for the travel site Priceline.com. Some of our favorites include this tribute to the classic Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror,” as well as one where he is replaced by Trek co-star Leonard Nimoy. The company has thrived under his watch – as has Shatner, who has lasted 12 years as the company spokesman.
Photo Credit: Priceline.com
Morgan Freeman for Visa
The veteran actor has become America’s answer to David Attenborough, with his recognizable baritone narrating everything from CBS Evening News to the Oscar-winning documentary March of the Penguins. It’s no wonder, then, that various companies and organizations have made use of his venerated vocal chords for their ad campaigns, most notably Visa and the Olympics. When you’ve played both God and the President, your voice carries some serious authority.
Photo Credit: CynSimp
Dennis Haysbert for AllState
Speaking of fictional presidents, who could forget Dennis Haysbert, better known as President David Palmer to fans of 24? The same benevolent, authoritative presence that made him the most beloved president in the show’s run (his little brother, Wayne, couldn’t hold a candle to him) also made him a perfect pitchman for the insurance company, where he assured viewers that they were in good hands.
Photo Credit: Siebbi
Peyton Manning for Everyone
The dopey-looking Indianapolis Colts quarterback seems an unlikely celebrity spokesman, despite his laser rocket arm. But his unremarkable looks and aw-shucks personality, combined with a self-effacing sense of humor, are exactly what has made him such an in-demand endorser for everyone from Sony to MasterCard. If you need proof of his marketability, look no further than this 2009 commercial for the Sony Reader, in which Manning was paid to sit next to Justin Timberlake with a blank look on his face and not say a single word.
Photo Credit: Ian Ransley
Isaiah Mustafa for Old Spice
Usually actors will establish their celebrity status first, then become product pitchmen. Not so for Mustafa, a little-known football player and struggling actor who hit it big in a series of surreal ads depicting “the man your man could smell like.” While established celebs like Bruce Campbell and Ray Lewis have also appeared in ads for the company, it was Mustafa’s steely gaze and undeniable masculinity that cemented his status as the “Old Spice Guy.” Mustafa is now trying to parlay his advertising success into an acting career. He has made a guest appearance on NBC’s Chuck, and is due to appear in the big-screen adaptation of Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family.
Photo Credit: OldSpice.com
George Foreman for the George Foreman Grill
If you go to Google and enter “George Foreman,” what comes up first? Not his Wikipedia page or his official website, nor even an account of his legendary boxing career. No, the two-time heavyweight champion of the world is now best known for the lean, mean grilling machine that bears his name. Manufacturer Salton, Inc. bought the right to Foreman’s name for $137 million, and promised him 40% of the profits. The investment has paid huge dividends for both parties, as more than 100 million grills have been sold worldwide.
Photo Credit: georgeforemancooking.com
Wilford Brimley for Liberty Medical
The hefty, mustachioed veteran actor is almost as closely linked to The Price is Right as former host Bob Barker. Brimley’s ads for Liberty Medical, a company that delivers diabetes testing supplies, have aired during the show for years, and Brimley was even recognized by the American Diabetes Association for raising awareness of the disease. Brimley’s trademark pronunciation – “diabeetus” – has propelled the ads into pop culture notoriety, including spoofs on Saturday Night Live and Family Guy and a widespread internet meme.
Photo Credit: Molly Lewis
Michael Jordan and Larry Bird for McDonald’s
You could probably write a whole book about Michael Jordan’s prowess as a celebrity endorser – His Airness lent his name and image to Nike’s Air Jordans, and he has made millions promoting everything from Wheaties to Hanes. Perhaps his most memorable appearance, though, was with longtime rival Larry Bird in a commercial for McDonald’s. The two engage in an increasingly-ludicrous game of H-O-R-S-E, with Jordan’s Big Mac and fries at stake. Wayne Gretzky and Mats Sundin later teamed up for a tribute to the commercial.
Photo Credit: cliff1066
Bob Dole for Viagra and Pepsi
Pfizer’s erectile dysfunction drug spawned numerous late-night talk show jokes when it launched (we’re looking at you, Leno), and the company evidently sought someone who could put a dignified face on the issue. They found it in Bob Dole, the former senator and presidential opponent to Bill Clinton in 1992 who became impotent following his treatment for prostate cancer. Dole’s print and broadcast ads struck a serious tone, though he later poked fun at the unlikely endorsement in a commercial for Pepsi.
Photo Credit: Visit Hillsborough
Mr. T for … Anyone
After making a name for himself in the early ‘80s as B.A. Baracus (in The A-Team) and Clubber Lang (in Rocky III), the mohawked actor proceeded to endorse, well, everything. His likeness has appeared on everything from neckties to air fresheners and even a short-lived bubble gum. More recently he attempted to capture some George Foreman magic with the Mr. T FlavorWave Oven, promoted World of Warcraft, and professed his love for gold as the face of Gold Promise.
Photo Credit: Darlene Lacey
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