Fame and celebrity

Five times companies dumped celebrities as brand ambassadors, like they did with Kuwaiti fashion blogger in racism row

Lil Wayne and Mountain Dew, Lance Armstrong, Livestrong and Nike, Michael Phelps and Kellogg’s, Donald Trump and … well, you name them – celebrities who’ve said or done things brand partners think make them look bad

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 July, 2018, 5:49pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 July, 2018, 7:03pm

Max Factor and other brands have distanced themselves from Kuwaiti fashion blogger Sondos Alqattan after she posted racists remarks about Filipino workers in the country.

Alqattan, who has more than 2.3 million followers on Instagram, complained about foreign domestic helpers asking for one day off per week and new regulations that allow them to keep their passport while they work in the Gulf state.

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“How can you have a servant at home who keeps their own passport with them?” the online influencer asked her followers. “What’s worse is they have one day off every week,” she continued.

Alqattan faced strong criticism, with many accusing her of perpetuating modern slavery, and beauty brands have been quick to sever ties with the online blogger.

She isn’t the only celebrity to have fallen out of favour with brands because of things they have done or said.

Lil Wayne and Mountain Dew

The rapper faced widespread condemnation in 2013 after including in the lyrics to one of his songs a crude reference to 14-year-old Emmett Till, who became a symbol of the civil rights movement in the United States after being tortured and killed in 1955.

Mountain Dew cut ties with the music star after the controversy. “His offensive reference to a revered civil rights icon does not reflect the values of our brand,” the company said in a statement, according to The Rolling Stone.

It wasn’t the first time the soft-drinks firm had got into hot water for its collaborations with rap musicians. Just a few days before the Lil Wayne incident, Mountain Dew had to take down a spot created by Tyler, the Creator for the brand, after criticism that it downplayed violence against women and promoted racial stereotypes.

Whoopi Goldberg and Slim-fast

It probably seemed a safe bet for diet-aid manufacturer Slim-fast: appointing Whoopi Goldberg, one of America’s most beloved celebrities, as its spokesperson. But things turned awry when Goldberg made a series of jokes about then-US president George W. Bush in 2004, during an appearance at a Democratic fundraiser in New York.

The comedy routine included several sexual puns using Bush’s name.

Despite the criticism, Goldberg stood her ground, remarking that she had joked “about every president in the past 20 years, from Reagan to Carter, from Clinton to Bush”.

“While I appreciate what the Slim-Fast people need to do in order to protect their business, I must also do what I need to do as an artist, as a writer and as an American, not to mention as a comic,” she said.

Michael Phelps and Kellogg’s

The cereals brand quickly distanced itself from the gold medallist after a photo of the Olympic swimmer using a bong to smoke illicit drugs surfaced.

“Michael’s most recent behaviour is not consistent with the image of Kellogg,” the company said in a statement, CNBC reported.

Phelps’ downfall came at the beginning of 2009, just a few months after the Olympic swimmer earned eight golds at the Beijing Olympics.

Lance Armstrong, Livestrong and Nike

“[Lance Armstrong] misled Nike for more than a decade,” the company said in October 2012 as evidence grew that the seven-times Tour de France winner had been doping for years.

Amid a widespread backlash, Armstrong decided to step down as chairman of Livestrong, the cancer charity he created in 1997, in order to “spare the foundation any negative effects”, The Guardian reported.

It took just a few months for Nike to decide to wrap up its nine-year collaboration with Livestrong, which generated millions of dollars for the foundation and popularised the Livestrong yellow wristband across the globe.

Donald Trump and NBC, Univision, Macy’s …

The president of the United States started his presidential campaign in 2016 with eye-popping remarks claiming that Mexican migrants to the US were “rapists” and “murderers”.

The comments were widely condemned, and several firms working with Trump and his businesses decided to end their collaborations.

Most notably, NBC, the television channel on which Trump became famous for his role in The Apprentice, decided to tell the candidate “You’re fired”. It dropped all associations with the real estate tycoon. Spanish-language network Univision meanwhile cut ties with the Trump-owned Miss Universe organisation.

Similarly, the chain store Macy’s decided to stop selling Donald Trump’s clothing line. Of course, the move triggered a very Trumpian response on Twitter, with the then-candidate calling for a boycott of the department store chain: