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Celebrity Endorsements - The Good, The Bad and the Pitfalls

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How are alcohol brands made popular by their celebrity ambassadors, and what risks does this carry for the reputations of said celebs?

It’s no secret that celebrities are a dab hand at making us buy their stuff; from perfume to clothes, jewellery to make-up. But one step along that celebrity branding money making machine leads us to the murky depths of alcohol endorsement.

However, unlike perfume adverts in which our favourite celebs freely tease us with sultry glances, imploring us with their unblinking eyes that not only do they smell so damn good but also that we should too, when it comes to alcohol endorsement there is a certain level of caution when celebrities are involved.

It’s fair to state that whilst many lyrics are ridden with references to alcohol, from Kesha’s Tik Tok, where her dental hygiene consists of brushing her teeth ‘before I leave with a bottle of Jack’, to J Kwon’s Tipsy tune from back in the day, many celebrities much prefer to be silent financial backers rather than faces at the forefront of an alcoholic product. And it’s not hard to see why.

So Why?

Just taking a look at itsthedrinktalking.co.uk, a platform that addresses the relations between young people and alcohol, and we can clearly see from the topics of the blogs that the negative often outweighs the positive. With issues from drink driving to the effect of advertising, is it any wonder that for a celebrity, outright alcohol endorsement carries certain risks? You need to glance only at the Showbiz section of The Sun or scroll down on the Daily Mail website to see numerous celebs staggering out of clubs and that’s on their days off, so imagine what kind of image would be promoted to their adoring young fans when all of a sudden they started advertising a drink product? There’s been enough scandal over Professor Green and his promotion of Relentless energy drinks, so for a celebrity to advertise alcohol, it’s going to take some careful planning.

In marketing speak however, careful planning can sometimes translate to covert operation. Ever seen Leonardo Dicaprio’s Jim Beam  advert on television? No?

Maybe that’s because it only airs in Japan. Such adverts are not only financially lucrative but they also serve to protect said celebrity’s credible reputation as well as stopping them from suffering a backlash from the fierce defenders of the legal age limit (21 years old) to buy and consume alcohol in America.

But is it such a bad idea for a celebrity to refrain from promoting a product in the interests of career preservation? By default aren’t they protecting impressionable youngsters from the image of  alcohol consumption?

The Greater Dangers of Censorship

In 2010, Israel didn’t give celebrities the choice. The country drafted a bill that banned celebrities from advertising alcohol in a bid to minimise the influences it would exert over young people’s naïve attitude towards alcohol. Some perceived this action as an overreaction both with regards to the power of advertising as well as the vulnerability of young people, but whilst in print it sounds extreme it actually stood for protection rather than radical prohibition. Inevitably, youngsters will discover temptations such as alcohol at some point but this bill would only have served to make it less easy.

Even so, despite good intentions, banning celebrities from such endorsements doesn’t actually provide a solution. It might be wrong for the image of excessive alcohol consumption to be presented as a lifestyle to aspire to, but surely it is just as dangerous to remove such images all together from the public eye? Curbing advertising opportunities may postpone the discovery of alcohol but it can never completely eradicate it.

I’m not ignoring the power of celebrity endorsements and I’m not saying that they don’t have a cause in affecting our attitude towards alcohol, of course they do. A big alcohol brand promoted by an even bigger celebrity name inevitably has an effect on consumers but to treat it as something forbidden would only add to the allure of drinking, which has the possibility to be more detrimental than an advert.

Seeing Adverts as the Presentation of an Option

Just as it is irresponsible to promote a hardcore partying lifestyle centred around heavy drinking so would it be irresponsible to pretend that we live in a tee total society or indeed that alcohol consumption can’t be manageable as well as enjoyable.

Let’s stop blaming celebrity culture or the power of advertising for our collective drinking problem, we need to educate ourselves and each other about our choices. Let’s reach a stage where we can consider an advert as a presentation of an option rather than an absolute aspiration, and whether said advertised product is endorsed by a celebrity or not, let’s give ourselves the option to choose wisely.

This article was first published by Alcohol Concern as part of their ‘It’s the Drink Talking’ campaign.

Image courtesy of The BuzzBin

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