The appeal to celebrity is a logical fallacy that is essentially based on the belief that celebrities are authoritative sources even in areas that are outside of their field of expertise. It’s a specific form of the appeal to authority fallacy.
It’s a common type of faulty argument, but it occurs especially frequently in advertising where companies hire famous people to endorse their brand and products.
Appeal to celebrity occurs when a famous person’s opinion or argument is accepted as true simply because they are famous. The need for factual evidence and sound reasoning is dismissed due to the authoritative status they are perceived to have.
The argument’s logical form is either:
- Celebrity X says Y is true
- Therefore, Y is true.
- Celebrity X supports idea/brand/product/candidate Y.
- Therefore, Y is right/good.
Use of Appeals to Celebrity
Most commonly, this fallacy is the meat and potatoes of many marketing campaigns as companies hire celebrities to endorse their products. This helps them build a stronger brand image and rank up sales.
However, since most celebrities are actors, singers, or sports stars, they are rarely experts on the subjects they talk about.
Why It’s Fallacious
To illustrate why this type of appeal is considered to be logically flawed, here’s an example of appeal to celebrity:
- “Celebrity X, who is a famous actor, says that moon landing was a hoax and we must start acknowledging the fact. He/she must be right.”
Here, the claim is accepted solely based on the celebrity status of the individual behind it, rather than on the actual merits of the claim. This is fallacious because, in terms of logic and
argumentation, popularity or social status of a person is irrelevant to the truth value of the claims they make.
As such, an exception would be when someone makes an argument regarding a particular area of skill and knowledge while being famous precisely because of their expertise in that area.
- “Michael Jordan, a world-famous basketball player, thinks cranberry-apple yogurt is delicious. Therefore, you will love it as well.”
- A commercial says that having brand XYZ’s cereal for breakfast is the best way to start the day because Tiger Woods eats it for breakfast every morning.
- “Did you hear that a famous rapper supports this presidential candidate? We should vote for him too.”
- “Several celebrities have said that eating anything else except organic food is bad for your health. Therefore, I will only eat organic food from now on.”