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Celebrity brands and endorsements gone wrong

food, celebrity brands and endorsements gone wrong

Kim Kardashian made the mistake of not telling her followers she was paid to tout a crypto asset on her social media, and now that US$250,000 paycheck she received is costing her US$1.26 million in penalties and charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

According to the SEC’s order, Kardashian failed to disclose that she was paid to publish a post on her Instagram account, currently with 301 million followers, about EMAX tokens, the crypto asset security being offered by EthereumMax, which also linked to the EthereumMax website and gave instructions for potential investors to purchase EMAX tokens. In the post she wrote, “Are you guys into crypto???? This is not financial advice but sharing what my friends just told me about the Ethereum Max token!” and included the hashtag “#AD,” which clearly wasn’t enough for SEC.

SEC chairperson Gary Gensler said in a statement that this case “serves as a reminder to celebrities and others that the law requires them to disclose to the public when and how much they are paid to promote investing in securities,” reports Variety. Under the settlement, without “admitting or denying the SEC’s findings,” Kim agreed to not promote any crypto asset securities for three years.

Whether it was their own failed brand or business, a questionable spot appearance, or their own outrageous behavior that lost them endorsements, many celebrities have seen their lucrative business dealings fall through, and others have seen backlash for throwing their star power behind questionable companies. Click through the gallery to see some other celebrities who had brands and endorsements go off the rails!

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food, celebrity brands and endorsements gone wrong

Kanye “Ye” West’s collaboration with Gap seemed to be doomed from the beginning. The rapper’s Yeezy fashion brand entered into a partnership with the retailer two years ago and relations became particularly rocky in 2022. His unusual choice to display his most recent collection in giant black trash bags in the stores was met with confusion and ridicule, although if anything, the controversy helped to boost sales. Regardless, West began to speak out about difficulties in dealing with Gap as a business partner, publicly accusing them of shutting him out of important meetings and ignoring his requests.

On September 15, West’s lawyer announced West’s decision to terminate the partnership, citing “substantial noncompliance.” He alleges that they failed to open Yeezy branded stores and distribute his apparel as agreed when contracts were signed. Gap responded with a statement confirming the end of the collaboration and admitting that they were not “aligned” with West in how the vision they created together should be carried out. Gap will continue to sell Yeezy products until 2023, after which no new collections will be designed for the retailer. West says he intends to open his own Yeezy stores.

food, celebrity brands and endorsements gone wrong

Hailey Bieber ran into trouble less than a week after launching her skincare line, Rhode, which is her middle name, as she was sued for trademark infringement by a minority-owned fashion company founded in 2013 with the same name. According to court documents obtained by E! News, the fashion company’s founders, Purna Khatau and Phoebe Vickers—who cite stars like Beyoncé, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Lupita Nyong’o among their customers—state that “there is no doubt that Ms. Bieber and her companies know of Rhode’s superior rights.” The document continues, “Indeed, [Ms. Bieber] previously sought to acquire the RHODE mark, appreciating that the brands could not co-exist without confusion.” The duo had refused because they had built everything upon that name. “But Ms. Bieber, who could surely leverage her fame into success with a different-branded beauty line, apparently does not care that two other women entrepreneurs have been using the RHODE brand name for years.”

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food, celebrity brands and endorsements gone wrong

Coldplay announced that they’d be partnering with the Finnish oil company Neste to power their upcoming ‘Music of the Spheres’ tour. Their aim was to reduce their carbon emissions and make the tour as sustainable as possible. However, fans were quick to point out that Neste has ties to deforestation, and accused the band of greenwashing.

Frontman Chris Martin released a statement defending their position: “When we announced this tour, we said that we would try our best to make it as sustainable and low carbon-impact as possible, but that it would be a work in progress. This remains true. We don’t claim to have got it all right yet.” The band clarified that their aim was to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% compared to their 2017 world tour, but some fans are still unhappy with the partnership.

food, celebrity brands and endorsements gone wrong

Kendall Jenner’s 818 Tequila Company was sued by its competitor, Tequila 512, for trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition. One obvious similarity between the brands is the name – both use an area code combined with the word tequila. In addition, both brands have similar black lettering in a vertical yellow label on the bottles. Tequila 512 says 818 Tequila “blatantly copied the branding.” Back when 818 was launched in May of 2021, Tequila 512 instantly came out with a scathing response on social media: “Note the similarities, including the color, the name and it is made at the same distillery in Tequila Mexico as ours. Their batches are being distilled twice. Ours three times. Yet she is charging twice as much per bottle.”

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food, celebrity brands and endorsements gone wrong

Former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler took to Twitter on August 13 to reveal that he had been dropped from Uber Eats. “Lost a commercial with Uber eats partnering with the NFL,” he tweeted. “Guess they don’t like future School board members. Frees up my weekend.” The canceled contract comes in the wake of the retired athlete joining Twitter and immediately expressing his opposition to elementary schools mandating masks. Replying to a headline about parents calling for masks, Cutler tweeted, “Not this parent. Really hope I’m not put in the corner by Twitter in my first 24 hrs.” Then, after the Williamson County School Board in Tennessee approved a temporary mask requirement for students, staff, and visitors at the elementary grade levels, Cutler hinted at plans to run for the school board himself. After dropping him from the commercial, a spokesperson for Uber Eats told People, “We are proud of all the work Uber has done over the last year to help get as many people vaccinated as possible. As such, we prefer to partner with those who support that work.”

a woman talking on a cell phone

Kendall Jenner’s contract with Italian fashion house Liu Jo turned sour as the brand sued her for US$1.8 million in damages, claiming that she breached the conditions of her contract by failing to appear for the second of two planned photoshoots. She first worked for them in 2019, but their second shoot was delayed due to the pandemic. Liu Jo say that there was an agreement to reschedule, but Jenner has ignored their attempts to contact her. The problem is that she was supposed to be paid US$1.5 million for the two shoots, and was already given US$1.35 million upfront after the first one. After failing to reschedule the second shoot, they also failed to obtain a refund from Jenner for the uncompleted work.

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Michael B. Jordan looking at the camera

Michael B. Jordan

Michael B. Jordan’s rum brand launch was met with criticism after Nicki Minaj and others took issue with the name, J’Ouvert. J’Ouvert is an annual festival held in Trinidad, Togabo, and Grenada during Carnival which highlights Caribbean culture, and many claim the brand name appropriated Caribbean culture. Later that same day, the ‘Black Panther’ star apologized on Instagram: “I just wanna say on behalf of myself and my partners, our intention was never to offend or hurt a culture (we love and respect) and hoped to celebrate and shine a positive light on.” He continued, “Last few days has been a lot of listening. A lot of learning and engaging in countless community conversations…” Jordan apologized and confirmed that the brand will be renamed.

Meghan Markle, Prince Harry are posing for a picture

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry faced criticism after their Archewell Foundation signed a “global partnership” with Procter and Gamble, a company which sells skin-whitening creams. Many are concerned that the Sussexes’ partnership does not align with their anti-racism activism. The controversial product is the Olay brand skin-whitening cream which many critics have called to be removed from shelves as they are inherently racist and colorist.

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Chrissy Teigen sitting at a table

The end of Chrissy Teigen’s contract with Target was announced immediately after she made headlines in a cyberbullying scandal. Model Courtney Stodden revealed that Teigen had bullied them on Twitter almost 10 years earlier, when Stodden was a teenager. Teigen made a public apology for her past bad behavior. It was announced that her cookware would be removed from Target less than 48 hours later. Sources say the decision was reached amicably in December of 2020, but the timing raised eyebrows.

Kylie Jenner, Kylie Jenner are posing for a picture

The Jenners

The Jenner sister’s clothing brand Kendall + Kylie has been accused of cultural appropriation and even plagiarism in the past.

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a person wearing a red dress

Madonna

In 1989, Pepsi paid Madonna a whopping US$5 million for a commercial featuring her song ‘Like A Prayer.’ When the official music video for the single dropped, which featured burning crosses among other controversial religious footage, Pepsi was met with protest and boycotts, forcing them to cancel their deal with the pop star.

Chris Brown looking at the camera

Chris Brown

Following the domestic violence incident involving his then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, Brown was dropped from several commercials and lost major sponsorship deals.

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a person holding a sign

Kylie Jenner

The reality television star first ventured into makeup with the launch of her lip kits in 2015. But it quickly came under fire for poor quality and inappropriate product names, among other criticisms. The line even received heavy backlash from another famous makeup artist Jeffree Star.

Beyonce smiling for the camera

Beyoncé

Even Queen Bey found herself in hot water as a spokesperson for Pepsi. She was called a hypocrite for promoting the sugary carbonated drink while at the same time being a part of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move fitness campaign.

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Scarlett Johansson et al. posing for the camera

Scarlett Johansson

Johansson was chastised by the organization Oxfam, of which Johansson was an ambassador, for her participation in a SodaStream commercial. Turns out the drink company is run out of a factory in West Bank.

Sharon Stone standing on a stage in front of a mirror

Sharon Stone

Fashion house Christian Dior decided to drop Sharon Stone as a model for the brand after the actress made some insensitive comments about the China earthquake in May 2008.

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a close up of Jeffree Star with red hair looking at the camera

Jeffree Star

Star himself hasn’t been free from controversy. His line took a blow when an old video of him resurfaced making racist remarks after which the makeup artist was forced to apologize.

Paula Deen sitting on a stage

Paula Deen

Also for controversial racist comments, the celebrity chef had endorsement contracts cancelled by the Food Network, Walmart, Target, Sears, J.C. Penny, and others.

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Kate Moss smiling for the camera

Kate Moss

The supermodel lost contracts with Chanel and Burberry after cocaine allegations in 2005.

Kat Von D wearing a costume

Kat Von D

Like Jenner, this tattoo artist’s line Kat Von D Beauty was also looked down upon for highly inappropriate and sexualized names for lipstick products such as ‘Underage Red.’

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a person posing for a picture

Kendall Jenner

Model Kendall Jenner sparked an online outrage in 2017 when she appeared in a tone-deaf Pepsi commercial which appeared to make light of important social movements such as Black Lives Matter.

Michelle Kwan holding a sign posing for the camera

Michelle Kwan

Similarly, the famous figure skater was condemned for endorsing Coca-Cola while also a member of the prestigious President’s Council on Fitness, Nutrition, and Sports.

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Heidi Montag posing for a picture

Heidi Montag

While at the height of her ‘The Hills’ days, the reality star tried to launch a fashion line called Heidiwood. It ultimately failed after a mere seven months. The cheap clothing was described as being flimsy and unwearable.

Kim Kardashian sitting on a boat in the water

Kim Kardashian

In 2017, Kardashian’s KKW Beauty released an image promoting the line and their contour in which Kim herself appeared in the photograph with her skin significantly darkened. People were quick to jump on the celebrity comparing it to blackface.

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Kim Kardashian standing on a sidewalk

Kim Kardashian

Years earlier, she sparked outrage as a spokesperson for QuickTrim which she endorsed and praised as highly effective for weight loss. Unfortunately, the pill was found to be totally unhealthy and actually dangerous!

Ashton Kutcher wearing a hat and holding a guitar

Ashton Kutcher

Brown face, a fake Indian accent, and racist impersonation was a recipe for disaster that the actor clearly did not see coming. It was in a 2012 commercial for Popchips that Kutcher appeared as the fictional character “Raj.”

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O.J. Simpson sitting at a table

OJ Simpson

Hertz, the car rental company, made the wise decision to phase the football player out of its commercials after domestic assault allegations first came to light. This was before the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson.

Bill Cosby wearing a suit and tie

Bill Cosby

When the sexual harassment allegations started to surface, Bill Cosby lost endorsement deals from Jell-O, Coca-Cola, and Kodak, among many other organizations that distanced themselves from the comedian.

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Kobe Bryant wearing a suit and tie

Kobe Bryant

Likewise, a sexual assault allegation against the late NBA star in 2003 tarnished his reputation and he subsequently lost deals with the likes of McDonald’s and Nutella.

a person standing in front of a crowd

Lil Wayne

After controversial rap lyrics from the rapper on Future’s ‘Karate Chop’ were heard, the folks at Mountain Dew were not too pleased and quickly cut ties with the musician.

Jessica Alba posing for a picture

Jessica Alba

Seems like Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company isn’t so honest. Over the years, it has been hit with plenty of lawsuits for false advertising and marketing practices.

Helena Carter holding a sign posing for the camera

Helena Bonham Carter

Bizarrely, Helena Bonham Carter was chosen as the spokesperson for Yardley cosmetics but was later dropped after she revealed that she hardly ever wore makeup.

Lance Armstrong wearing glasses and smiling at the camera

Lance Armstrong

The famous cyclist infamously lost many endorsement deals, including Nike, after he admitted to doping. He reportedly lost US$75 million worth of sponsorship money in a single day.

Dakota Fanning smiling for the camera

Dakota Fanning

When she posed for Marc Jacobs’ Oh, Lola! perfume, there was an immediate reaction to a photograph of a then-17-year-old Fanning holding the perfume bottle between her legs. The advertisement was ultimately banned in the UK for being too racy and suggestive.

food, celebrity brands and endorsements gone wrong

Michael Phelps

The famous US swimmer was dropped from Kellogg Company after an image of him using a bong surfaced in 2009. He was also given a three-month suspension from USA Swimming for his inappropriate behavior.

a person standing in front of a fence

Kirstie Alley

As a spokesperson for Jenny Craig, Kirstie Alley upset Twitter users when she used the term “circus fat” in a commercial. Her own weight loss company Organic Liaison faced a lawsuit for false advertising which was later settled in 2013.

Tiger Woods swinging a golf club

Tiger Woods

Following the cheating scandal that engulfed the golfer in late 2009, he lost sponsorship deals with the likes of Accenture, AT[and]T, Gatorade, and General Motors.

Kourtney Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian, Kim Kardashian posing for the camera

The Kardashians

The reality star sisters tried to launch a credit card in 2010 called the Kardashian Kard but quickly backed away from the project after the credit card’s high fees caused an uproar.

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