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Eat or get eaten: the rise of the celebrity fast food meal

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Eat or get eaten: the rise of the celebrity fast food meal


Celebrities were once known as having private chefs and unattainable diets. But, an old trend is now resurfacing. Celebrities are again partnering with fast food chains to bring their flavour to the fare. It does beg the question though: are the meals healthier for the brand or the celeb?

When thinking about celebrity diets, what springs to mind? Gwyneth Paltrow’s quite frankly terrifying diet and health regime? Perhaps it’s the Kardashians tucking into yet another salad big enough to feed a family. Or maybe it’s the Kate Moss diet of coffee and cigarettes. What doesn’t come to front of mind is fast food. I struggle to visualise George Clooney tucking into a Big Mac or Jennifer Lopez indulging a Whopper. Yet, if we turned to the fast food chains, celebrities are becoming the chefs, and the faces, of the industry.

It started in 1992. 

McDonalds x Michael Jordan

He could shoot hoops, design shoes, and apparently withstand spice. At the prime of Michael Jordan’s career the basketballer was inundated with brand deals. McDonalds, of course, held ranks. Jordan worked with McDonalds to create the McJordan. It was only available in Chicago, where he played for the Chicago Bulls. And, it involved a hot sauce. 

The sauce remains hot some 20 years later, with a bottle listed on eBay in 2012. The bottle of the prized spice was going for a rather cooling $9995.  

Tim Hortons x Justin Bieber

Tim Hortons isn’t a locally known chain. The Canadian coffee and doughnut chain was one of the first to take a punt with a celebrity. The choice had to be Canada’s most successful musician (no, not Neil Young) Justin Bieber. It was a (doughnut) hole in one, as the pop sensation had already spoken of his love for the restaurant. 

In November 2021, Tim Hortons launched Timbiers, a riff on the popular Timbits (doughnut holes). Doesn’t sound like much, but it made all the difference. The company saw a rise of over 10 percent in sales than the quarter before.

A hungry Biebs said it was a “dream come true”, as I’m sure the team at Tim Hortons would agree.

McDonalds x Travis Scott

Travis Scott, the other half of youngest (and richest) Jenner, Kylie Jenner, made waves when he released his own McDonald’s meal. But instead of being a newly introduced menu item, it was a meal. One that Scott himself liked dining on. A Quarter Pounder, fries, Sprite, and barbeque sauce. That was it. Seems like nothing, right? Well, the meal sent a frenzy through America. The fast food chain was forced to back order more Quarter Pounders as the popular menu item flew off the shelves and into mouths. 

KFC x Jack Harlow

Newer to the celebrity scene is American rapper Jack Harlow. And, as if the tasty treat of KFC needed anything else to entice diners, it signed Harlow on for a brand deal. The partnership saw Kentucky native Harlow release a limited-edition meal. This time it included KFC spicy chicken sandwich, mac and cheese, secret recipe fries, with a side of ranch and lemonade. It was served on Jack Harlow branded packaging, to sweeten the spicy deal.

Harlow worked a KFC drive-thru in order to promote the meal. It worked, as the fans flocked to KFC and indulged in the meal.

Do celebrity meals work?

Celebrity meals have become part of the culture of fast food chains now. From the weird to the most obvious to the case of K-pop band BTS increasing chicken nugget sales by a whopping 250 percent when BTS x McDonald’s collaboration hit the stores, these meals are going to continue to happen. And, for good reason too. 

In America, celebrity endorsed meals accounted for 15 percent of sales across the fast food industry. A hugely significant number in a trillion dollar industry.

Locally, Australian celebrities aren’t as prevalent on our fast food choices. But, perhaps it’s time for Maccas to release a Vegemite Big Mac and have Delta Goodrem as the face?


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Liv Croagh

Liv Croagh was the Managing Editor of Marketing Mag from September 2021 to September 2023.

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