Celebrities under fire for endorsing unhealthy products

Late October, singer Katy Perry came under fire by consumer groups who sought to highlight what they saw as her celebrity promotion and endorsement of the Pepsi brand and their sugary drink, Pepsi Cola.

Product endorsements come in all types. The Brita water filter featured on the weight loss show The Biggest Loser with presenters “introducing” the idea of clean water to the contestants and NASCAR supports product endorsements of their race car drivers with large product logos plastered all around the cars.

Official celebrity endorsements are also very common. Pepsi has a long history of connection to celebrities such as Michael Jackson starting in 1984, Britney Spears in 2001 and Christina Aguilera in 2005. This is nothing new. No doubt the image that the PepsiCo company have sought to continue to create is one of being hip and trendy, even if some celebrities who have endorsed their product in the past did not even consume the drink themselves; their mere endorsement was sufficient, it was believed, to influence the consumption habits of billions of consumers worldwide.

A collection of six consumer groups clubbed together on October 22 to pay for a full page advertisement in entertainment trade paper, Variety, condoning the singer Katy Perry for what they saw was endorsement of the Pepsi brand and the drink.

What made this unusual was not that a celebrity was once again endorsing the drink, but that the singer, unlike Beyonce, was not actually being compensated by Pepsi as a paid representative, sponsor or spokesperson for the company. Instead, she happened to be seen drinking Pepsi…

There is consumer education and then there is consumer education… Being a celebrity in some ways makes one a target. But a celebrity is also a person who is free to decide what drink they wish to consume today. Are they a role model for young teens? Sure.

However, at what stage do singers lose their own freedom to choose what they wish to drink for fear it will wrongly influence others in society? And are parents not responsible too? The full page advert asks these questions indirectly, just as much as it asks singer Katy Perry to stop inadvertently promoting Pepsi.