Pizza Hut in Moscow just before the opening in 1990
Pizza Hut in Moscow just before the opening in 1990 by GeorgeLouis (CC BY-SA)

37 Bizarre Celebrity Product Endorsements

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Pizza Hut in Moscow just before the opening in 1990
Pizza Hut in Moscow just before the opening in 1990 by GeorgeLouis (CC BY-SA)

Star Shills

If you've ever watched a commercial featuring a celebrity endorsement, you may have wondered why the star was encouraging you to buy a specific product. (We’re still thinking of that Mikhail Gorbachev Pizza Hut commercial). Yes, the market is still flooded with those in the spotlight being tapped to influence consumer purchasing decisions. Celebrity endorsements frequently are made all the more confusing because often there's no discernable connection between the star and the product being peddled.


Related: Alcohol Brands Owned by Actors, Musicians and Other Celebs

Mikhail Gorbachev
Getty Images / Wojtek Laski / Contributor

Mikhail Gorbachev | Pizza Hut

The last leader of the Soviet Union (who recently died at age 91) seemed like an odd choice to shill pizza in the '90s, but today his legacy of opening the door to American fast food in Russia was one that brought joy (and probably additional pounds) to the Russian people — and is now tinged with sadness. After Russia invaded Ukraine, not only did Pizza Hut abandon Russian operations, but so did other major U.S. fast-food brands, including KFC, Starbucks, and McDonald's. Ironically, Gorbachev's ad has since gone viral and was likely given a boost by his death. 


Related: These Big Companies Are Cutting Business Ties With Russia

ice-t honey nut cheerios
General Mills Inc.

Ice-T | Honey Nut Cheerios

Yes, rapper/actor Ice-T seems to be one of the most popular celebrities tapped for endorsement deals, from Geico insurance to CarShield auto protection, Tide detergent to Boost Mobile and RxBars. But we have to admit to a moment of absolute shock to see Ice-T in a bright yellow tracksuit leading a team of speed walkers in a commercial for Honey Nut Cheerios.


Related: Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were Related

Snoop Dogg & Martha Stewart
BIC

Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart | Bic Lighters

This odd couple of entertainment — the rapper and the lifestyle maven — has had quite the run. Individually, they’re no slouches. Snoop has promoted everything from Dunkin’ to SodaStream, Overstock.com, and Corona. Stewart knows how to make a product, especially one of her own, appealing to the masses. But this duo’s pairing, which has previously included a commercial for Tostitos, soars to new bizarre heights with the spots for Bic lighters.

Shaquille O'Neal preparing to shoot a free throw
Shaquille O'Neal preparing to shoot a free throw by Keith Allison (CC BY-SA)

Shaquille O’Neal | The General Insurance

No matter how many commercials there are or how clever they might be, it’s still strange to see basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal as the “brand ambassador” for The General. Sure, an athlete like Shaq can (and has) pitched for expected products ranging from Wheaties to Icy Hot pain relief, but an auto insurance company with a cartoon character as its namesake is still a little weird.

oyota Tundra Ad Stars Tommy Lee Jones, Leslie Jones, Rashida Jones and Nick Jonas
Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Tom Jones, Tommy Lee Jones, and More | Toyota

Toyota created a decidedly unusual commercial for the Super Bowl this year, a “Jones-themed” effort in which we hear Tom Jones sing as we watch Tommy Lee Jones, Leslie Jones and Rashida Jones race in trucks to Jones Pass. In the end, Nick Jonas offers the kicker: “It’s keeping up with the Jonases now.” Um, ok.

Rob Schneider
Rob Schneider by Super Festivals (CC BY)

Vanilla Ice and Rob Schneider | Bob's Discount Furniture

Bob’s Discount Furniture tried … we’ll give them that. The “Assemble the Bobs” commercial might be cute in theory – but it really doesn’t work. Among those featured include a sculpture of the late artist Bob Ross, rapper Vanilla Ice (born Robert Van Winkle but not known by that name), and actor Rob Schneider, who says, “It’s the call of the Bobs. It also works on Robs.” Sorry, but it does not.

Miley Cyrus 2021
Denise Truscello/Getty Images

Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton | T-Mobile

Iconic singers Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton teamed up for a T-Mobile ad during the Super Bowl, pairing the godmother and goddaughter in a clever-yet-surreal extended riff on charitable efforts by celebrities.

Liev Schreiber
Liev Schreiber by Martin Kraft (photo.martinkraft.com) (CC BY-SA)

Liev Schreiber | Mattress Firm

What is “junk sleep”? Thanks to actor Liev Schreiber, we now know. We were amazed to see this respected actor (“Ray Donovan,” “The Manchurian Candidate”) in a commercial, let alone a commercial for Mattress Firm. The spots, though, do have a noir feel, something that seems fitting for this bizarre career turn.

Martin Short
Wikimedia Commons

Martin Short | SingleCare

Ed Grimley’s helping us save money on prescriptions? Canadian-American actor, comedian, singer and writer Martin Short, whose decades in the spotlight have included stints on “Only Murders in the Building” and “Saturday Night Live” as well as on the big screen (“The Father of the Bride”), is a decidedly unexpected celebrity to pop up in a commercial for SingleCare, a service designed to cut the costs of prescriptions. The commercial, though, offers a tour-de-force showcase of his enduring appeal. (And, to note, he’s following in the footsteps of actor Martin Sheen, who was the previous brand spokesperson).

Ken Jeong
Ken Jeong by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA)

Ken Jeong | Xiidra Eye Drops

Sure, he might be a licensed medical doctor, but Ken Jeong today is best known for his stand-up comedy, his comic acting roles (“The Hangover”), and his ongoing stint as a judge on “The Masked Singer.” Now, we see him in a serious turn, as an “everyman” battling dry eye disease in a commercial for Xiidra eye drops. It’s a bit of a disconnect.

Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi Lauper by Eva Rinaldi (CC BY-SA)

Cyndi Lauper | Cosentyx

The iconic ’80s singer (“Girls Just Want To Have Fun”) and Tony Award-winning composer (“Kinky Boots”) suffers from psoriasis. We learn all about her battle during an appearance on a commercial for a treatment called Cosentyx. It’s personal, to be sure, but also odd to see a celebrity as an “everywoman.”

Guy Fieri
Getty Images / Alexander Tamargo / Contributor / Getty Images Entertainment

Guy Fieri | King’s Hawaiian

Guy Fieri is the spiky-haired, brash celebrity chef who’s not to everyone’s taste. Sure, he’s got a career in the food industry, but it still seems a real stretch to see him hawking King’s Hawaiian rolls and bread. (And why do the actors in the commercial with him need to mention him by name repeatedly?)

Janelle Monáe
AUDI AG

Janelle Monáe | Audi

Janelle Monáe, the singer and actress, is not someone you’d immediately think of to star in a car commercial, making her appearance for Audi a bit unexpected. The commercial, though, is one of those where it seems to strive to be profound but instead comes off a bit kooky. It’s visually interesting but Monáe’s says seemingly random phrases: "sensitive or strong," "reason or fun," "statement or silence." We’ll vote for silence. 

Eric Roberts
Eric Roberts by Florida Supercon (CC BY)

Eric Roberts | American Standard Walk-In Tubs

Once nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in “Runaway Train,” Eric Roberts is an actor whose career would rival Michael Caine’s for the sheer number of roles he’s tackled. One role his fans likely cringe at, though, is his turn as a spokesperson for American Standard walk-in tubs. 

Jimmie JJ Walker
Jimmie JJ Walker by GabboT (CC BY)

Jimmie JJ Walker | Medicare

You know you’re old when you recognize Jimmie "J.J." Walker, the onetime star of the groundbreaking 1970s TV comedy “Good Times,” as the spokesperson for Medicare. Walker hawks the plan’s benefits in front of a set that features plenty of his own memorabilia — and yes, he shares that his experience with the plan was “dyn-o-mite.”

John Legend & Chrissy Teigen
eBay

John Legend and Chrissy Teigen | Chex Mix

Singer John Legend and his model-wife Chrissy Teigen are an entertainment super couple and have teamed up for ads for Vrbo. But it was the holiday-season commercial for Chex Mix that seemed a bit odd. It featured the couple as part of “The 12 Days of Chex Mix” and showed them in “still images” — but it really wasn’t clear how they were connected to the product. Or why.

Anna Kendrick at the world premiere of Cafe Society
Anna Kendrick at the world premiere of Cafe Society by GabboT (CC BY-SA)

Anna Kendrick | Rocket Mortgage

“Pitch Perfect” star Anna Kendrick, a Tony Award-nominated performer, has been endorsing the Hilton hotels in commercials for awhile. Now, she’s the “adult” in a frenetic Barbie-themed commercial for Rocket Mortgage which features a group of kids, real estate, a bidding war and … oh, we give up. It’s just odd.

John Cena
John Cena by Gage Skidmore (CC BY)

John Cena | Experian

It’s an extension of his persona to see pro wrestler and actor John Cena in those Hefty trash bag commercials, but we’re still not sure what his spots for credit-reporting company Experian (in which Cena co-stars with a purple cow) are all about. 

Matthew McConaughey, Lincoln
Ford Motor Company

Matthew McConaughey | Lincoln

Matthew McConaughey is an A-list actor known for his classic rom-coms (“How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days”), his serious roles (“Dallas Buyers Club”), and his Texas drawl and laid-back attitude. Still, it was a bit unusual to see him in a series of commercials for Lincoln automobiles. They are artsy, to be sure, and depending on your tolerance, either deep or deeply annoying. They’ve been spoofed, parodied and yet, they continue.

Eli Manning
Eli Manning by All-Pro Reels (CC BY)

Eli Manning | Frank’s RedHot

Athletes and endorsements go hand in hand, but football icon Eli Manning hawking Frank’s RedHot sauce in a retirement-themed ad is a stretch. After all, it’s a bit jarring to see Manning in the garden and the kitchen, especially pushing a product with the tagline, “I Put That &#@% on Everything.”

Johnny Depp
© Parfums Christian Dior

Johnny Depp | Sauvage Cologne

Veteran actor/musician Johnny Depp, whose personal life is the stuff of legend, rocks and smolders in a commercial for Christian Dior fragrance Sauvage. In the midst of Depp’s personal issues (and shunning from Hollywood), Dior is standing by the beleaguered star.

Ewan McGregor
Expedia, Inc.

Ewan McGregor | Expedia

It takes a moment to register that it really is Scottish actor Ewan McGregor (“Trainspotting,” “Moulin Rouge”) who’s taking a turn in a commercial for Expedia. It debuted during the Super Bowl and had a cinematic feel to it — but still, Ewan McGregor in a TV ad? 

Idris Elba
Booking.com B.V.

Idris Elba | Booking.com

From “The Wire” to a turn as Nelson Mandela, British actor Idris Elba has some serious acting chops. But a lesser-known side of him comes to the fore in a series of truly funny ads for Booking.com. He’s, simply put, a charmer, and these ads caught us totally off guard.

Mary J. Blige
Wikimedia Commons

Mary J. Blige | Hologic

Singer Mary J. Blige, hot off her Super Bowl halftime performance, is also seen these days in a commercial promoting women’s health. The spot shows her as a star, on set, but also simply as a woman waiting for test results in this surprise appearance for Hologic, a women’s health company.

David Grohl
David Grohl by Lindsay (CC BY)

Dave Grohl | Sirius XM

Iconic rocker Dave Grohl (of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame) is known for his sense of humor (look no further than the Foo Fighters’ “Learn To Fly” video) but he’s still the last person we expected to see in a TV commercial. It was a treat to see him shouting, “I made lasagna” multiple times to Kevin Hart in a quirky ad for Sirius XM. 

Khloé Kardashian
Khloé Kardashian by Eric Longden (CC BY-SA)

Khloé Kardashian | Nurtec ODT

We know the Kardashians are famous for being famous. With careers spearheaded by momager Kris Jenner, the Kardashian daughters are entrepreneurs, spokeswomen for products of often questionable quality, and tabloid gold. We wouldn’t think to ask them for advice on our health, which is why Khloé Kardashian’s commercial for Nurtec ODT, a migraine medicine, had us going, “Really?”

Arnold Schwarzenegger & Salma Hayek
BMW Group

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek | BMW

As weird as it is funny, a new BMW Super Bowl commercial paired up actors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek as Greek gods Zeus and Hera, dressed in period gear but living modern life as a retired couple in Palm Springs. Who thought of this wildly creative idea? And to them, we say, “Well done.” 

Zendaya
Zendaya by © Glenn Francis, www.PacificProDigital.com (CC BY-SA)

Zendaya | Squarespace

Those used to seeing actress-singer Zendaya gracing the red carpet in glamorous gowns or on screen in projects as diverse as “Dune” or “Euphoria” got an unexpected jolt of A-list action with her Super Bowl commercial for Squarespace, a mini movie of sorts called “Sally’s Seashells.” (And if the narrator looked familiar, you’re right in spotting rapper André 3000 of Outkast fame).

William Shatner
William Shatner by Super Festivals (CC BY)

William Shatner | Brookstone

It’s not a stretch to think of “Star Trek” icon William Shatner involved in all things space-related (look no further than his historic autumn flight into actual space). It’s still wacky to see Captain Kirk in a print ad campaign for Brookstone, one featuring him trying out products such as a massage chair while in a spaceship. 

Mark Hamill
Mark Hamill by Dick Thomas Johnson (CC BY)

Mark Hamill and Patrick Stewart | Uber Eats

It’s a “Star Wars” versus “Star Trek” faceoff in the Uber Eats commercials that pair up Mark Hamill (forever Luke Skywalker) and Patrick Stewart (of Jean-Luc Picard fame), each ordering their meals with such authority, you want to see more, even though the first viewing had us scratching our heads wondering what this was all about.

Elton John
Tinseltown/shutterstock

Elton John and Lil Nas X | Uber Eats

Another installment of the Uber Eats commercials pairs up classic rocker Elton John with breakthrough musician Lil Nas X in a series of spots. We love the one where they ride mechanical toys and discuss what they’ll be eating that night. We must admit we cracked up every time Lil Nas X offered a sassy reply to Rocket Man’s request to borrow some money: “You don’t look broke.”

Meghan Trainor
Meghan Trainor by Ronald Woan (CC BY-SA)

Meghan Trainor | Bingo Blitz

Apparently it’s not “All About That Bass” but rather “All About That Game.” Pop singer Meghan Trainor turned her runaway 2014 hit into a commercial jingle to promote Playtika’s free game. Yikes.

James Corden
Bruce Glikas/Getty Images CC

James Corden | Keurig

Late-night funnyman James Corden may need some cups of Keurig to keep his busy schedule buzzing (after all, he’s also known as an actor, comedian, and singer) but we still don’t see why he was chosen to help sell coffee makers. The ad gives him a chance to bring some comic timing to a tepid idea, though.

George Clooney
eBay

George Clooney | Nespresso

George Clooney, once holder of the “The Sexiest Man Alive” title courtesy of People magazine, is known for his acting, his activism … and his love of coffee? Perhaps it was his suave voice that led him to be tapped for the long-running series of Nespresso commercials. All we know is, Clooney and coffee … we still don’t quite get the connection.

Ryan Reynolds
Ryan Reynolds by Dick Thomas Johnson (CC BY)

Ryan Reynolds | Mint Mobile

Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds (“Deadpool,” “Two Guys and A Girl”) is noted for his playfulness, exemplified by his faux sparring on social media with wife Blake Lively. So, his commercials for Mint Mobile had us wondering if he really was part of Mint Mobile, as he said. But he indeed bought a stake in the wireless company back in 2019. Who knew? 

Colin Ferguson
Getty Images / Amanda Edwards / Contributor / Getty Images Entertainment

Colin Ferguson | Maytag

For those who only know Canadian-American actor Colin Ferguson from his successful stint on the sci-fi series “Eureka” might be surprised to realize he’s the star of a series of quirky Maytag commercials. The “refrigerator running” one is a classic.

Lindsay Lohan
Andrea Raffin/shutterstock

Lindsay Lohan | Planet Fitness

Actress Lindsay Lohan puts a clever spin on her old wild-child reputation with a commercial called “What’s Gotten Into Lindsay?” for Planet Fitness. (LiLo in a gym?) The advertisement, unveiled during Super Bowl LVI, also included cameos from Denis Rodman, Danny Trejo, and William Shatner.