The Most Bizarre Celebrity Endorsements Of The ’80s
The word “celebrity” has morphed a lot in the past decade. Back in the ’80s, celebrities usually had at least one hit series, along with a bunch of magazine covers. Almost every celebrity was a household name. Even if you weren’t familiar with their work, you were at least familiar with them — and why they were so popular. Even if you didn’t care for them, you couldn’t deny the fact that they had some sort of talent.
Then, the internet became more of a thing. And people became Instagram-famous and YouTube-famous. Yes, things change, but it seemed pretty quick. These celebrities may not be the best singers or actors, but they’re good in front of a camera and have found a way to build their audience.
A whole new job has opened up — Instagram Influencer. These people have built their brand to the extent that companies have actually given them free products to try and push through their posts and stories. Usually, the company is a little on the shady side — like, a weight loss tea or body wrap. Other times, it’s something you may have seen in stores. Does it work? Apparently. But it’s nowhere near the same as actual celebrity endorsements from the ’80s.
Need proof? Here are some of the oddest.
1. Bill Cosby — Jello
Yes, he’s shown the world that he was secretly a massive creep. But in the ’80s, Bill Cosby was a hero and quite a notable voice.
And that hero happened to love Jello. He was in a ton of Jello commercials and became known for them. But if you think about it, it’s kind of weird. Why Jello? Well, it seems like Cosby wanted to endorse as many products as he could, solely because it was rare to have a black spokesperson. Cosby was trying to pave the way for others, which is admirable (yet, still doesn’t absolve him from everything else.)
2. Michael Jordan — Nike
Do these sneakers make you play basketball as well as Michael Jordan? Well, no.
But, they were advertised in such a way that people had to have them. Air Jordans first came out in 1984, with a second type debuting in 1986. They became so popular that the shoes managed to support other athletes, and not just Michael Jordan. As far as side gigs go, Jordan’s was probably one of the most successful. Who knew people would still be talking about his shoes decades later?
3. Fred Savage — Fruity Marshmallow Krispies
Okay, so he might not be straight out endorsing these.
But, Savage’s career already included a big hit, The Princess Bride, before he chose to appear in this commercial. It’s a bit part, but quite obviously him — meaning that he had to know that he’d be linked to this cereal for some time. Sadly, the product is no more. But hopefully, Savage was able to stock up before they went extinct.
4. Christie Brinkley — CoverGirl
The endorsement itself isn’t all that strange. It’s more about the longevity of that endorsement.
Brinkley helped represent CoverGirl for 25 years, which is huge. In the mid-’80s, it was just one of her many projects. She also appeared in National Lampoon’s Vacation as the iconic Ferrari girl and started dating Billy Joel. The two were married in 1985 but ended up divorcing in the ’90s. Still, it was a prime time to be Christie Brinkley.
5. Keanu Reeves — Corn Flakes
Not going to lie, this commercial makes Corn Flakes look damn good.
Even big fans of Reeves may have forgotten this bit role as “Enthusiastic Waiter.” This may have just been an acting job, but that bite and look at the very end is really selling it. Reeves is a good actor, but that expression on his face shows he’s truly enjoying the cereal. The real question is, what kind of restaurant is this?
6. Hulk Hogan — Honey Nut Cheerios
On the topic of celebrities and cereals, can we talk about Hulk Hogan?
Hogan was such an influential wrestler that he was even well known outside of the ring. He intimidates the Honey Nut Cheerios bee, but thankfully, the two end up working things out. And since this was reportedly the first time Hogan liked nuts and honey, even better. “That’s better than a body slam!” he awkwardly says after taking that first messy bite.
7. Brooke Shields — Calvin Klein
It’s a little weird to realize that Brooke Shields was only 15 when she made this ad.
Typical 15-year-olds buy the jeans their moms force them to buy. Or, they wait for a sale. But, not Brooke Shields. As a model, life is a little different. Still, it doesn’t mean this campaign didn’t spark controversy. The fact that Shields was a minor, and wearing skin-tight jeans, rightfully didn’t sit well with many people.
8. Michael Jordan – Hanes
Okay, so the ’80s were amazing for Michael Jordan.
Aside from his shoe line, he also promoted Hanes. The shoes make slightly more sense, but when it comes to finding endorsements for underwear — a product that (hopefully) everyone uses — you probably want to go with whoever’s popular at the time. So in a way, it’s not all that weird. You might not have watched a single basketball game in your life but still found Jordan to be inspiring.
9. Leonardo DiCaprio — Kraft
Leonardo DiCaprio got his start with an appearance on Romper Room back in 1979.
Ten years later, he got a few more parts — including this role in a Kraft cheese commercial. He was promoting fat-free cheese slices that tasted better than anyone — even “dad” — could have expected. What scandal, stealing cheese slices from your father who’s probably bummed about his dietary restrictions anyway!
10. James Garner — Beef
Sometimes, it’s not necessarily a particular brand.
It can also be a particular food. We all know about the Got Milk? promotion, but there was also one for beef starring James Garner, known for The Rockford Files, The Notebook, and 8 Simple Rules. As Cracked made sure to note, this endorsement seemed to be a bit cringeworthy, as Garner suffered from clogged arteries shortly after this premiered.
11. Kevin Costner — Apple
It looks like Kevin Costner has been a pro with computers since the ’80s.
It may be shocking enough for some to see an Apple computer that doesn’t look sleek or cool. But in 1983, Apple Lisa was enough of a draw to bag Costner for an endorsement. Both the company and the actor have come a long way since this ad was shot.
12. Mike Tyson — Nintendo
What does Mike Tyson do when he’s not in the ring?
He plays himself in “Mike Tyson Punchout,” of course. Tyson had his own game on the popular system back in the late 1980s, and also starred in their ads. Even better, he didn’t have to do a lot of acting. That’s right — all he had to do was sit there, throw a punch, wiggle his shoulders, and laugh, that was enough to earn a pretty nice paycheck.
13. Leslie Nielsen – Shell
When start driving, you usually choose a gas station by price and location.
And that makes Leslie Nielsen’s 1981 ad for Shell even more strange. Did he really prefer Shell over the others? He mostly advertised for a conservation book available at the notorious gas station, which is good — it included ways to help save energy, and help save the environment. That’s a promotion that Shell should consider revamping for 2019.
14. Kermit and Miss Piggy — Polaroid
And, Mariette Hartley. She was also quite notable.
If you assume that Muppets don’t take pictures, boy are you wrong. Kermit and Miss Piggy proved back in 1982 that they’re all about Polaroid cameras for quick pictures, especially the Polaroid Amigo. If only Miss Piggy wasn’t so jealous of Hartley — did she really think that Kermit would stray?
15. Kermit The Frog & Fozzie Bear —National Wildlife Federation
On the topic of Muppets (and Kermit, especially) they also made a PSA for the National Wildlife Federation back in the ’80s.
They weren’t endorsing a product, but a concept. The two of them proved that littering wasn’t okay and that we’re all responsible for keeping the environment clean. Wonderful message, but an odd choice of representatives. Next time you’re thinking about throwing your cans into the lake, remember how much it upset Fozzie.
16. Arnold Palmer and OJ Simpson for Hertz
Before OJ Simpson was known for crime, he was known for Hertz. And, his football career of course.
Hertz rental cars had Simpson on board from the ’70s until the early ’90s. Thus, he became pretty tied to the company. These days, they probably don’t want anything to do with the former star —but, that’s just a big guess. It’s hard to think about all that happened after this specific ad was shot, reportedly in 1984.
17. John Goodman for Campbell’s Soup
John Goodman seems to be quite a fan of Campbell’s Chunky Sirloin.
This ad is so short and so to-the-point that it’s almost a little off-putting. Goodman shot this at the beginning of the career before he was a full-blown celebrity, and as paying work is notoriously hard to get for new actors, there is a good chance that he depended on Campbell’s Chunky soups to get him through a few meals.