I’ve noticed a rise of celebrities partnering with fast food chains in the past year. It feels…exploitative? Calculated and manipulative for sure. After doing some research I found that the first celebrity partnership with a fast food chain occurred in 1992, when Mcdonalds partnered with Michael Jordan to release the McJordan meal. It was released exclusively across the Chicagoland area as Mcdonalds was capitalizing on Jordan’s star power radiating from the Chicago Bulls. The McJordan’s exclusivity has even seemed to prosper over the years given the auction in 2012, in which a man purchased the McJordan bbq sauce for almost $10,000 as reported by Popculture.
McDonald’s partnering with Travis Scott marked the second time a collaboration of this capacity happened and a celebrity had a meal named after them. It was so popular and in such high demand that it caused ingredient shortages for the company worldwide as reported on by CNBC. He is a well known musician with a massive following. Partnered with arguably the most widely known fast food chain, it was a brand deal that made a lot of sense.
And of course, it has been hard to miss chains such as Dunkin and Popeyes adopting the same strategy in the past year as well. Dunkin in particular collaborated with the Tiktok mega-star Charli D’Amelio in late 2020 to release “The Charli cold foam”. Popeyes opted to partner with rapper, Megan Thee Stallion to release a special new sauce as well as new merchandise. McDonald’s recently partnered with the Korean pop group, BTS to release a limited edition meal and special packaging. Then they immediately announced their collaboration with the rapper, Saweetie. And just two weeks ago they shared their “Mariah Menu” no doubt with the intention of sharing her recognition during the holiday season.
What is the deal with celebrities partnering with fast food chains? And why is it suddenly on the rise again?
According to Joan Ifland, founder of Food Addiction Reset, companies using big names to promote their products allows customers to “trust” in the product more. The companies cash in on the association the consumer already has for the person endorsing said product as reported on by Mashed.
All are heavily promoted on social media, the target of consumers being people who are fans of the celebrities. The partnerships rely on the devoted fan bases to reach a demographic they might have even had before. It is about association and manipulating the public into buying something simply because the company slapped their favorite celebrity’s name on it. It’s a very impressive strategy, I’m surprised it didn’t resurface sooner after the initial McJordan meal in ‘92. I don’t see this going away anytime soon, especially with the way companies can urge the celebrities who they partnered with to post about them online. It gives them a direct voice to the consumers they want, being endorsed by the celebrity rather than the companies promoting themselves. All of it is intriguing but eerily manipulative.