It’s been a whole year since President Obama was sworn in, and whether or not you agree with his policies, there’s no doubt that the man has been busy. He’s trying to reform health care, manage two wars and boost jobs. But somehow, with all of that going on, he’s still had time to pitch a few products.
The truth is that, as president, everything he does can be viewed as an endorsement of something, intentionally or not. Yet, in many cases, his endorsements have had very tangible effects on sales and publicity for the companies involved. One could even argue that Obama has had more luck endorsing products than endorsing candidates.
Here are seven of the most notable product endorsements Obama has made since becoming president.
One nice thing about having a reader-in-chief is that he has been able to occasionally boost book sales in an otherwise dying industry. Even before he officially took office, the New York Times published a piece asking if Obama would be the new Oprah for books. Sure enough, he’s helped the sales of books like Netherland by Joseph O’Neill and FDR by Jean Edward Smith. And then of course, there were his summer reads. With Oprah going off the air next year, Obama may have an extra responsibility on his hands.
In May, Obama and some of his staff made an impromptu visit to Five Guys Burgers in Virginia. Videos of the visit circulated around the Web and were aired on television. Five Guys is a decent-sized chain, but it pales in comparison to giants like McDonald’s. Yet, Obama’s visit gave the restaurant a ton of free publicity and national exposure. “I get tears in my eyes thinking about it, that they made such a big deal about Five Guys," the owner of Five Guys told USA Today.
For weeks leading up to his presidency, all the media could talk about was whether he would keep his Blackberry. Obama was photographed reading and typing on his phone, and even mentioned his Blackberry in interviews. According to Gizmodo, the amount of air time that the phone got (plus the fact that the person pitching the product was the President) was probably worth anywhere from $25 million to $50 million. And the company got it all for free.
4. Weatherproof Coats
One company actually tried to turn Obama into a pitchman. Executives at the Weatherproof Garment Company noticed Obama had worn one of their jackets on a visit to China last November, and decided it was too good an opportunity to waste. The company blew up the picture and put it on a billboard in Times Square with the slogan, “A Leader in Style.” However, the White House didn’t appreciate this kind of marketing and the company was eventually forced to take the billboard down.
It was a bad year for the travel industry, but this state has tried to capitalize on the president in order to boost their tourism. There is a page devoted to the sites of “Barack Obama’s Hawaii” on the state’s official tourism page. And many Hawaiian business owners and tourism officials have already reported small boosts in visitors because of Obama.
6. Late Night Talk Shows
When Conan first took over the Tonight Show, Obama did an interview with Brian Williams where he jokingly promoted the show. “Well, I think that Conan will do an outstanding job. This is something we've discussed several times in the Oval Office—how to manage this transition between Leno and Conan. And I think he's up to the task.” Sadly, this is one endorsement that didn’t seem to help very much in the long run. Obama also did a similar spot for George Lopez’s new talk show. All we can say is, George, good luck!
7. Chia Pets?
And then of course, there are the crazy products that have nothing to do with Obama but still use his name or likeness to boost sales. There are Chia pets, condoms and even frozen chicken fingers from one German company. Check out MainStreet’s coverage for more of these items.
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