The crowded world of CBD public relations is positively saturated with celebrity endorsements and, alternatively, celebrity envy. Having a true A-list celebrity (or even B-list) promote your product is the gold of the CBD world – but if you can’t land a real celebrity how about just using their image and hoping they don’t notice?
That seems to have been the rationale of not just one, but multiple CBD companies that have “borrowed” Clint Eastwood’s image to sell their products. Among the more egregious offenses, according to the lawsuit, a Lithuanian company (Mediatonas) actually fabricated an interview between Eastwood and an outlet made to resemble the “Today” show.
While Eastwood originally asked for $30 million as compensation for the use of his image, the court deemed that amount disproportionate to the crime. The final $6 million judgment is what U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner deemed a reasonable amount that Eastwood would have charged Mediatonas UAB to endorse its product over a 16-month ad campaign.
According to minutes of the hearing, the number reflects just how seldom Eastwood lends his celebrity to commercial endeavors:
“Mr. Eastwood’s name and likeness have only been licensed once, for a single Super Bowl commercial ‘themed around America’s resilience and recovery from the Great Recession,’” noted the judge. And he only participated in that campaign because “he felt strongly about its subject matter: job growth and the spirit of America.”
The $6.1 million penalty reflects what Eastwood could reasonably have expected to receive had he endorsed the products over a 16-month span.
Eastwood is far from the only celebrity to have this happen to them. According to an ad making the rounds in 2020, Blake Shelton purportedly endorsed something called “Green CBD Oil.” (He did not.) And Tom Hanks hit back on his Instagram account when CannaPro used his name to push their CBD:
“This is false and an intentional hoax. I’ve never said this and would never make such an endorsement. Come on, man!”
The latest celebrity “victim” of fake CBD ads is Russell Brand, and as can be expected, he was having none of it:
“These CBD gummy bears – they’re not mine. I’m not making any CBD gummy bears, I’m in recovery for dependency! So you see this brand here, that ain’t me,” said Brand. He does leave the door open, however tongue-in-cheek, for future opportunities, “I probably will start one in the future, you know, for charity.”
There are, of course, many, many celebrities that happily put their names behind a specific CBD product. Just to name a few, Martha Steward, Rob Gronkowski, Kerstin Bell, Megan Rapinoe, and Willy Nelson have all heartily endorsed individual CBD brands and are being paid, we imagine, very well for it.
If you’re in any doubt about whether an endorsement is real, it really doesn’t take too much digging to find out. When a celebrity endorses a product, there is much brouhaha all across the media. So if it seems a bit dodgy, it probably is.
But will the lawsuit have any impact on the practice of using celebrity images to sell otherwise sub-par CBD products? Possibly not, until these kinds of lawsuits become the norm, though it may make CBD manufacturers think twice before sticking a celebrity name on their ads.
One result is pretty predictable, though – they probably won’t mess with Dirty Harry in the future.