Celebrities have enormous influence over their legions of fans worldwide. A study by the University of Liverpool published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that children were more likely to eat Walkers Crisps because they were endorsed by English soccer legend Gary Lineker on TV. Meanwhile, in the U.S., mega-celebrities like Beyonce and Ice Cube regularly sign multimillion-dollar marketing deals to endorse the junk food and burger chains that contribute to childhood obesity. Is this ethical of them? Is it fair for us to ask them to give up these lucrative deals? And what about celebrities like Kim Kardashian and David Beckham, who have advertised “healthy” food options offered by fast-food giants? Do they get a pass?
Click through the gallery to see which celebrities are influencing your kids’ eating habits. And let us know what you think!
Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Michael Jackson + Pepsi
The King of Pop signed a contract with Pepsi in 1984 that led to many commercials, including the infamous one where a faulty pyrotechnic effect set fire to the star’s hair and resulted in second-degree burns on his scalp. But in this commercial, a different kind of damage is done when the next generation is dubbed “The Pepsi Generation.” And the cola company won’t let us forget it: During the summer of 2012, for the 25th anniversary of his album Bad, Pepsi rolled out these cans with Jackson’s likeness.
David Beckham + Burger King
Is it possible to endorse just one healthier item from a fast-food franchise without contaminating your image with all its other fatty offerings? Soccer idol David Beckham tries this tricky move in his endorsement of Burger King’s smoothies. But we’re guessing we won’t see him selling BK’s horsemeat burgers in the U.K.
Ice Cube + Coors Light
It’s not news that musicians drink alcohol, but what do you think about overt endorsements like this Coors commercial staring Ice Cube? Does it leave you cold?
Jeff Gordon + Pepsi
Jeff Gordon perpetuates the popularity of the Harlem Shake and chemical-filled sodas in this commercial for zero-calorie Pepsi Max.
Kim Kardashian + Carl’s Jr.
Kim Kardashian recorded this spicy number for a 2008 advertisement for the 300-calorie salads at Carl’s Jr. Optimistically, we could think of this as a PSA encouraging kids to eat veggies, but will viewers forget the salad and keep going back for curly fries?
Lil Wayne + Mountain Dew
Rappers Lil Wayne and Mac Miller teamed up with race car driver Dale Earnhart Jr. to be sure you knew they do the Dew. Guess they’re too cool to care that 31.8 percent of kids are overweight or obese, and that soda is often partly to blame.
Kobe + McDonald’s
After his first couple titles, Kobe cashed in on his rising stardom by biting into a Big N’ Tasty for McDonald’s. We wonder what the athlete really eats to win.
LeBron James + Coca-Cola
LeBron teamed up with Olympic swimming gold medalist Natalie Coughlin to film this Coca-Cola Commercial. The divisive b-baller also endorses McDonald’s. Of course, LeBron is used to controversy.
Lionel Messi + Pepsi
The soccer star and winner of the last four Ballon d’Ors was joined by other members of his team for this Pepsi commercial geared towards an international audience.
Nicki Minaj + Pepsi
Good behavior is not Nicki Minaj’s style, so we’re not surprised she put on a performance like this for a Pepsi commercial.
Charles Barkley + Taco Bell
Basketball’s “Round Mound of Rebound” endorsed Taco Bell’s $5 box in 2010.
Taylor Swift + Diet Coke
While the boyfriends come and go, the Diet Coke label remains in the background during Taylor Swift interviews.
Britney Spears + Pepsi
Britney Spears released one of the most memorable ads in Super Bowl history with her pro-Pepsi “music video” in 2008.
Dwight Howard + McDonald’s
Below, Dwight Howard is joined by LeBron James in a McDonald’s commercial, in which NBA legend Larry Bird makes a cameo. And during the All-Star Break in 2010, Howard even stopped by a McDonald’s to serve food. Could this publicity stunt have become a reality check?
Pitbull + Dr Pepper
Pitbull is hardcore, and accordingly does double duty endorsing Dr Pepper and Bud Light.
Photo: LatinContent/Getty Images
Justin Timberlake + McDonald’s
Mr. Likable himself, Justin Timberlake was the face of a McDonald’s and Sony collaboration. Does that make him only half wrong?
Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Beyonce + Pepsi
Beyonce and Pepsi have history. This past February she performed during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show and way back in 2003 she starred in the ad below. In this commercial cast of thousands, Beyonce is joined by Pink and Britney Spears in the gladiator ring. You may also recognize the Emperor, Enrique Iglesias. That’s a lot of star power behind a pretty problematic beverage. Imagine what they could do if they banded together to get kids in shape instead.
Andrew Freeman is a California native with a degree in history from UCLA. He’s covered a wide range of topics for TakePart, but is particularly interested in politics and policy. Email Andrew | @imandyfreeman | TakePart.com