Celebrity Car Endorsements Are Cool but These Are Plain Weird

Jude Law for Lexus RX 11 photos
Photo: Lexus
Jude Law shills for the Lexus RXJude Law shills for the Lexus RXJennifer Lopez in Fiat 500 adJennifer Lopez's body double in Fiat 500 adChuck Norris brings the tough to Fiat DucatoChuck Norris brings the tough to Fiat DucatoJustin Timberlake in Audi A1 mini-seriesJustin Timberlake in Audi A1 mini-seriesVictoria Beckham poses with the Victoria Beckham Special Edition EvoquVictoria Beckham poses with the Victoria Beckham Special Edition Evoqu
Whenever a carmaker wants more than the regular motoring press coverage for a new model, they turn to showbiz for a helping hand. Celebrity car endorsements are not uncommon and, for the most time, they do make sense because they bring that much-needed boost in media attention and, ultimately, sales.
Most celebrity car endorsements are risks that pay off immediately, and a few are bad pairings that instantaneously make the world think “how did this ever come to happen?!” Then, there are the plain weird partnerships, those that do make sense on paper but translate badly in reality. It’s these we’re going to discuss next.

Jude Law for Lexus

In 2015, Lexus announced British actor Jude Law would be their ambassador for the Lexus RX, starring in a commercial and something they called “The Life RX,” an immersive campaign that promised to open the door to another world we could have only dreamed of until then.

The association of the two made sense: Law was a handsome, talented, very sophisticated British actor, so picturing him at the wheel of an RX was no effort of imagination. But what happened next was that the campaign tried to do more things at once and missed the mark – and its target audience.

Jude Law shills for the Lexus RX
Photo: Lexus
“The Life RX” campaign, it turns out, included not just the ad, which played out more like a Heineken ad than a car commercial, but also an immersive theater production. The latter was livestreamed and included cues from the audience, so Jude Law ended up going on a rampage through London, defacing pictures of himself, gatecrashing a jazz concert and ruining dinners for people by pulling the tablecloth off their table.

No doubt about it, the campaign still stands out from the crowd for being more creative and artsy than the average marketing campaign, but at the same time, it feels forced and pretentious, and leaves you wondering who exactly it was made for.

Jennifer Lopez for Fiat

In 2011, Fiat turned to Jennifer Lopez for an endorsement on their new Fiat 500 Cabrio. To many, she was still Jenny from the Block (she was far from the glam diva she is today), so Fiat decided on taking her back to the Bronx where she grew up in the ad called “My World.”

Jennifer Lopez in Fiat 500 ad
Photo: Youtube / Fiat
So far, so good. The ad shows Lopez driving from Manhattan to the Bronx, and talks of her returning to the place that gives her strength. Sure, you can easily spot romanticized versions of certain areas from disadvantaged neighborhoods, but it can be overlooked.

The problem was that, even back then, Jennifer was known for being a diva. Fiat found out, the hard way, that if you choose too big a star, you risk having people not being able to relate. Lopez may be a lot of things, but she’s not the type who drives a Fiat 500 – or visit the Bronx all that often, critics said. When word got out that she didn’t even set foot in the Bronx for the ad because a body double had been used, the entire campaign blew up in Fiat’s face.

Chuck Norris for Fiat

In 2017, Fiat chose Chuck Norris as ambassador for the Fiat Ducato professional vehicle line but, this time, played it safer by throwing humor into the mix. They did so by the inclusion of the Chuck Norris meme, the one that makes him into the most badass of the badasses in the world, an indestructible human being with a beard so tough it can’t be carved in stone.

Chuck Norris brings the tough to Fiat Ducato
Photo: Fiat
The campaign included ads abounding in Chuck Norris Facts, shot in an action movie-style that was 1 part action and 2 parts comedy. It was a successful one – and very well put together, at the same time.

What makes it weird is that, by leaning too much into the meme, it became harder to discern whether Norris was endorsing Fiat or Fiat was endorsing Norris. Because if it was the latter, Chuck Norris doesn’t need any endorsing.

Justin Timberlake for Audi

In 2012, Justin Timberlake was announced as the face of the Audi A1. Timberlake has had some success as an actor in his career, but he is mostly known for bringing sexy back and, before that, pulling the receipts on cheater Britney Spears in “Cry Me a River.” He’s a successful pop star and performer, so people were counting on seeing him being used in the campaign in this capacity.

Justin Timberlake in Audi A1 mini\-series
Photo: Audi
Instead, people got a 6-part mini-series, “The Next Big Thing.” It co-starred Dania Ramirez and was heavy on bad acting, cringeworthy dialog and hilarious action scenes. And an abundance of cliches.

The mini-series did reach near-viral status, so from this perspective, the partnership was successful. But it went down in history as a poor attempt at thinking outside the box when you lack what it needs to do so.

Victoria Beckham for Land Rover

In 2012, Land Rover asked Victoria Beckham, former Spice Girl turned fashion designer, to work with them on the Range Rover Evoque. The partnership would be limited to 200 units of the Victoria Beckham Special Edition, but the former Posh Spice was still granted the title of creative design executive with Land Rover.

Victoria Beckham poses with the Victoria Beckham Special Edition Evoqu
The marketing campaign made it sound as if Victoria had a significant input in the design of the car. Subsequent press materials enforced that idea, as did Beckam’s new position with the carmaker.

It seemed weird that a fashion designer with no designing formation like Beckham and whose own brand was struggling amid poor sales and allegations of ripping off other, more talented creatives, would suddenly make the startling – and so impressive – jump to car designer.

The full mystery was solved in 2017, when Rover design director Gerry McGovern told the media that Beckham was only allowed to make “restrained color and detail changes” to the Evoque. As for being a car designer, McGovern put it in very clear terms: “I’ve forgotten more than that woman will ever know about designing – to be a car designer takes years.” Burn!

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About the author: Elena Gorgan
Elena Gorgan profile photo

Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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