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Celebrity Retail Fixes


Sometimes stars like what they like, not what they're paid to endorse.

Call us jaded, but we find it hard to believe that celebrities would buy or endorse a product because they have a real preference for it. We've all read too many reports about the outrageous sums paid to actors or musicians for agreeing to be photographed in the right shoes or to tweet about the shampoo they've been using. In fact, this year, paid celebrity endorsements seem to be on the rise, even in the aftermath of the Tiger Woods debacle that burned sponsors like Gillette (PG), Accenture (ACN), Nike (NKE), and Gatorade (PEP).

Yet sometimes, somehow, there are times when a celebrity really does become a fan of a shop or product based on quality and experience, not a paycheck. When word gets out, marketers call its an "organic" endorsement. Here's our list of honestly grown celebrity and product pairings. In a world where almost nothing comes free, these celebrities have inadvertently given credibility to an array of brands, and all without any monetary compensation -- well, at least not initially.

President Obama and BlackBerry (RIM)
1. President Obama and BlackBerry

As Barack Obama was preparing to take office last year, he had to prepare for another major change in his daily life: letting go of his Blackberry (RIMM). The New York Times quoted him making the joke that someone would have to "pry it" from his hands. Of course, Research In Motion, the Canadian wireless company that makes the Blackberry, couldn't have been happier.

Until Obama spoke up about his dependence on the device, model Naomi Campbell was probably BlackBerry's most vocal and visual celebrity connection. Her association with the smartphone was infamously negative, however. The diva has twice attacked her hired help with the phone, in 2000 and 2006. She also brought free publicity to the brand in 2007 when her BlackBerry was stolen at a Led Zeppelin concert. The thief got his paws on the digits of A-list contacts like South Africa's Nelson Mandela.

Natalie Portman and Rodarte for Target
Natalie Portman and Rodarte for Target

The fashion press and style mavens applauded Natalie Portman's choice of dresses for the opening night of a New York Times cultural festival last month: The Hollywood star turned up in a $39.99 dress by Rodarte for Target (TGT). Her appearance came only one month after Rodarte -- whose pricier clothes are already a favorite with stars Emma Watson and Kate Bosworth -- released their highly anticipated budget line for Target shoppers. Shortly after photos of Portman in the dress started showing up on celebrity sites, was sold out of the delicate frock, at least in the golden yellow color seen on the star. The department store officially carried the Rodarte clothes until the end of January, though a few pieces are still available online.

Tyra Banks and SPANX
3. Tyra Banks and SPANX

Model and TV show hosting mogul Tyra Banks doesn't hold back or try to keep anything private. She therefore has no problem sharing that she packs that post-runway extra weight into the trendy post-modern girdle, otherwise known as SPANX. Banks has been spotted buying the body-shaping undergarments and not surprisingly, last August, flashed her studio audience and millions of viewers a peek of her thighs in the power underpants.

Britney Spears and Starbucks
4. Britney Spears and Starbucks

There is nary a paparazzo shot of Britney Spears, Mary-Kate Olsen, Demi Moore, or Rachel Zoe that doesn't feature the starlets' paws wrapped around a Starbucks (SBUX) paper cup. Add to that the 140-character unpaid advertisements that all four caffeine heads have either Tweeted or been Tweeted about with regards to their coffee habit, then well, you've got a ubiquitous brand with ubiquitous customers. As for Rachel Zoe, she and her colleagues are so shameless on her Bravo show The Rachel Zoe Project that some can't help but wonder if there actually is a contract involved with Starbucks after all.

Tom Cruise and Ducati Motorcycles
5. Tom Cruise and Ducati Motorcycles

Mega-watt movie star Tom Cruise already garners attention for appearing in blockbusters, jumping on couches, and popping up on the covers of tabloid magazines with his wife, Katie Holmes, and daughter, Suri. But when the media reported back in January 2008 that the man who played Jerry MacGuire and Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell had just purchased the first $72,500 Ducati Desmosedici RR motorcycle right off the assembly line, well, you can imagine what all the other rich guy Ducati enthusiasts did: got their names on the waiting list.
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