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The Impact of Celebrity Endorsements on Starbucks’ Marketing Strategy

The Social Proof Theory states that people mimic those they like and respect. One common example of social proof is celebrity endorsements. A celebrity partnering with a brand signals value to fans, making the product worth trying. Starbucks uses this marketing to introduce new drinks and grow its customer base.

Key Takeaways:

  • Starbucks partners with celebrities to promote drinks and reach more people.
  • Celebrity endorsements use the Social Proof Theory. People are influenced by those they admire.
  • Starbucks collaborated with Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and K-pop group Blackpink.
  • Starbucks benefits from celebrity endorsements on social media. This generates buzz and boosts sales of limited-edition drinks.
  • There are also risks to celebrity endorsements, such as controversy or overshadowing the brand
Barista at a coffee shop preparing a beverage with a smile, under the illuminating glow of celebrity endorsements on Starbucks.

How Celebrity Endorsements Work

Brands partner with celebrities to borrow star power and credibility. Customers are more inclined to purchase when their favorite celebrity endorses a product.

Some of the key ways celebrity endorsements can impact a brand include:

  • Increasing brand awareness and recognition
  • Attracting new customers, especially fans of the celebrity
  • Driving buzz and conversation on social media
  • Boosting sales, especially for limited-edition products
  • Conveying a certain image or lifestyle associated with the celebrity

Of course, celebrity endorsements are not without their risks. Partnering with the wrong spokesperson can be controversial and lead to backlash. The endorsement can also overshadow the actual product. And there’s always a chance the celebrity partnership won’t resonate with the brand’s target audience.

Starbucks’ Celebrity Marketing Strategy

Starbucks partnered major celebrities to promote drinks and engage customers. These endorsement deals often coincide with the launch of a new beverage that is available for a limited time.

Some of Starbucks’ most notable celebrity collaborations include:

Taylor Swift created the Taylor’s Latte in 2014. Ariana Grande introduced the Cloud Macchiato in 2019. Blackpink launched the Blackpink Frappuccino in 2022, which includes raspberry, milk, and ice.

Let’s take a closer look at how a few of these partnerships played out:

Taylor Swift’s “Starbucks Lovers”

In 2014, Taylor Swift’s song “Blank Space” featured a line that sounded like “Starbucks lovers.” The actual line was “long list of ex-lovers.” Swift playfully acknowledged the misheard lyric. She partnered with Starbucks to share her favorite drink with fans: a skinny vanilla latte.

Woman in red coat and black hat holding a Starbucks coffee cup outside a building.

Starbucks lovers quickly made the branded beverage their own, posting photos on Instagram and Twitter. The endorsement deal felt organic and clever. It tapped into existing conversations Swifties were having about the song. It was a win-win, giving a shout-out to Starbucks while making fans feel like they were in on the joke with Taylor.

Ariana Grande’s Cloud Macchiato

In 2019, Starbucks teamed up with pop star Ariana Grande to launch the Cloud Macchiato, an airy new espresso drink. Grande announced the partnership to her 150+ million Instagram followers. She shared dreamy photos sipping the limited-edition beverage.

Two Starbucks drinks on a fluffy white background with a celebrity Ariana Grande smiling woman holding a beverage to her lips.

Starbucks described the collaboration as “a celebration of Ariana’s lifelong love of clouds and coffee.” Fans could order Caramel or Cinnamon drinks at U.S. Starbucks. They could try to “step on clouds like Ariana” for a limited time.

The partnership included a Spotify playlist and a special sticker at Starbucks. The endorsement deal for Starbucks caused a buzz. #CloudMacchiato trended on social media. Fans eagerly tried the new drink. Some baristas even reported running out of the special ingredients.

Blackpink’s Signature Frappuccino

In 2022, Starbucks partnered with K-pop group Blackpink. They collaborated to promote a new signature Frappuccino. The strawberry-raspberry drink was exclusively launched in South Korea. It was also launched in Indonesia and Malaysia. Additionally, the drink was introduced in Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Promotional image showcasing the members of Blackpink with co-branded Starbucks merchandise, highlighting celebrity endorsements.

Blackpink appeared in a dreamy ad campaign to promote the pink beverage to their tens of millions of dedicated fans. In South Korea, the drink immediately sold out, with stores seeing long lines on launch day. The group’s Frappuccino expanded to Starbucks in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

Starbucks customizes collaborations for a celebrity’s audience and platform. This regional celebrity endorsement demonstrates this. Blackpink has an unmatched following across Asia, so focusing the drink launch in those markets was a strategic choice.

The Social Proof Impact

So what makes these Starbucks celebrity endorsements so effective? A big factor is social proof. People are heavily influenced by the choices and behaviors of individuals they admire. When a major celebrity gives their stamp of approval to a product, it makes fans sit up and take notice. There’s a sense of FOMO, or curiosity to taste what your favorite star is drinking.

Celebrity endorsements are an easy way for brands to leverage the power of social proof. And in the age of social media, these campaigns can spread far and wide with just a single post from a celebrity. Their fan base essentially does the marketing for the brand by posting photos and videos with the product. It’s the modern word-of-mouth.

Starbucks has become a master at harnessing this social proof to drive massive awareness for their brand and new drinks. They can reach a large new audience authentically with high-profile stars from music, TV, and social media. Collaborations generate excitement and coolness that traditional ads can’t.

Of course, the product itself still needs to deliver. A disappointing drink will lead to backlash no matter how big the star power behind it. When done right, celebrity-backed drinks can become a sensation. Everyone rushes to Starbucks to try them. That’s the power of social proof in action.

Barista, endorsed by a celebrity, smiling at the camera while holding a takeaway Starbucks coffee cup in a café setting.

Key Considerations for Celebrity Endorsements

If your brand is interested in leveraging celebrity endorsements as part of your marketing strategy, here are a few key things to keep in mind:

1. Audience fit: Choose a celebrity that resonates with your target demographic. Their values, image and platform should align with your brand.

2. Authenticity: The partnership should feel natural and genuine, not forced. Ideally, the celebrity is already a fan of your product.

3. Creativity: Develop a unique angle for the collaboration that will get people talking. A signature drink, limited-edition product, or interactive campaign.

4. Amplify the endorsement deal across various touchpoints. This includes social media and in-store signage. Make it feel like an event.

5. Prepare for demand: Celebrity-backed products can go viral fast. Make sure you have the inventory and staff ready to handle a rush of customers.

With the right celebrity partner and a thoughtful rollout plan, endorsement deals can take your brand to the next level. Tap into social proof and make your product a must-have item that people will share.


1. Why do brands use celebrity endorsements?

Brands partner with celebrities to increase awareness, credibility, and appeal for their products. Well-known figures can reach a wider audience and make the brand seem more trustworthy and desirable.

2. How much do celebrity endorsements cost?

The price of a celebrity endorsement deal varies widely depending on the star’s popularity and platform. A-list collaborations cost millions. Partnerships with micro-influencers may cost a few thousand dollars.

3. Do celebrity endorsements actually drive sales?

Celebrity endorsements can greatly boost sales, especially for unique products. The buzz and FOMO created by the partnership motivates customers to make a purchase.

4. What is an example of a celebrity endorsement fail?

One infamous example is Kendall Jenner’s 2017 Pepsi commercial. The ad trivialized the Black Lives Matter movement. It was pulled within 24 hours due to intense backlash. Considering the cultural and social context is important for an endorsement.

5. How can you measure the success of a celebrity endorsement campaign?

Monitor social media mentions, website traffic, sales, and brand sentiment changes. It’s also important to monitor any press or customer feedback around the partnership.

Celebrity Endorsement Tips:

  • Partner with celebrities that are a natural fit for your brand and already have an affinity for your products
  • Create endorsement deals that can be amplified on social media.
  • Stay informed about cultural trends to avoid controversial partnerships.
  • Have a plan in place to capture the demand generated by the celebrity collaboration, from inventory to customer service
  • Consider how the endorsement can be extended into an ongoing relationship or series of product launches

By leveraging the power of celebrity and social proof, brands can turn heads, drive sales, and cement their place in the cultural zeitgeist. The key is finding the right star and the right angle to make the partnership feel fresh and newsworthy. When it works, a celebrity endorsement can be marketing magic.

Disclaimer: The celebrities and product collaborations referenced in this article are examples and do not constitute an endorsement or approval by the individuals mentioned.

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