Celebrity Endorsement Ads in 1980s Newspapers

Extra! Extra! Here’s another dive into the newspaper rabbit hole I’ve been digging as of late! So far, I’ve put together pictorials of newspaper ads for Hills Department Store and random Video Rental Stores. In this edition, I’ve assembled some celebrity endorsement ads I’ve found while searching Google’s newspaper archive.

You may remember some of these celebrity endorsements, but I mainly tried to focus on the advertisements that I had no recollection. Until I began compiling them, I didn’t realize most of the ads are for technology of the time. Most of the ads serve the time-honored strategy of:

“Why do I want this widget?”

“Because A-List celebrity has one and said it was good!”

I’ve been guilty of it over the years. I wanted Adidas sneakers with no shoe laces because that’s what Run-D.M.C. rapped about. I didn’t care about the taste of Mr. T cereal because he was on the box. I wanted a Tandy computer just so I wouldn’t make Bill Bixby angry. The strategy works, bottom line, no matter what is being sold. If you trust the person you’ve seen on television or idolized the athlete, you are going to buy what they are pushing.

Here are some celebrity endorsement ads I recently stumbled onto while perusing 1980s newspapers.

Gene Kelly for RCA VideoDisc

Gene Kelly was a huge name in Hollywood for decades, dancing his way into the hearts of millions through movies and television. By 1983, he was all but retired but still a very recognizable name to endorse movies on RCA VideoDisc! The oversized discs of VideoDisc and Laser Disc really didn’t stand a chance against the smaller and more convenient tapes of VHS and Betamax (despite having better quality.)

Jack Nicklaus for Extend-A-Phone

By 1983, Jack Nicklaus had won 17 of his 18 major golf championships and was the biggest name in the sport. By that time, telephone technology was on the cusp on going cordless so who better to endorse your phone than “The Golden Bear.” His peers probably were the ones purchasing $150 cordless phones in 1983 to carry around when tending the flower garden in their mansion’s courtyard. Still, Jack Nicklaus had more of the “everyday man” persona which cordless phone technology would definitely fit as they became more prominent in the later part of the ’80s.

Mike Ditka for Bike sportsgear

This 1986 ad for Bike sportsgear is proof at how high The Chicago Bears superbowl victory the previous year propelled the entire team into pop culture. I don’t even remember the Bike brand, but the fact that they associated themselves with Ditka and the Bears likely meant they sold a ton of sportsgear in the late ’80s.

Andy Griffith for AT&T telephone leasing

If there was one person you wanted to endorse your product back in the day, it was Andy Freaking Griffith. If you polled the American public and asked them who was the most trustworthy, family-oriented personality on television, no doubt Griffith would win. That’s why this ad for AT&T phone leasing, while sounds ridiculous that households would need to lease telephones to avoid the stacking cost of replacing them, would convince anyone to sign up for the service just because Andy Freaking Griffith is telling you to.

Andy Griffith for Natural Kraft Cheese

Again, forget the coupon and the mail-in offer for a free package of Natural Kraft Cheese in this newspaper ad. Your eyes and your brain focus on one thing: Andy Freaking Griffith eats Natural Kraft Cheese so it must be damn good!

Expect more old newspaper ads as I continue to devour the newspapers of old!

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About Jason Gross 319 Articles
'80s Kid, '90s Grad, and '00s Dad. I've been writing and podcasting about 1980s pop culture since 2011 at my Rediscoverthe80s.com website. I collect vinyl, cassingles, '80s comics, Batman memorabilia, and all things Mobile Armored Strike Kommand.