In order to perform in next year’s Pepsi-sponsored Super Bowl halftime show, Justin Timberlake is suspending his endorsement of Dr Pepper Snapple Group-owned Bai. But will saying bye, bye, Bai — then returning — ultimately damage the endorsement’s credibility?

Timberlake isn’t the only star juggling allegiances. Many major influencers promote multiple brands. The average celebrity influencer mentioned more than 20 brands between January and August alone, according to L2’s Influencers report.

Influencers

However, Timberlake has done more than speak to Bai’s value. He bought a stake in the brand before it was acquired, putting his wallet in sync with his words.

“I’ve been a fan of Bai for a long time,” Timberlake said at the time. “This partnership was created from a shared desire to help people put better ingredients in their bodies without sacrificing taste.”

Together with the singer’s financial ties to Bai, that high praise suggests that his support for the brand is genuine — and that the temporary break might not have too negative an effect on consumer trust. But the Pepsi conflict underscores the risks for brands that partner with celebrities, especially those most in demand for lucrative endorsement deals.

In order to avoid similar collisions, brands can do what seems counterintuitive: avoid celebrity endorsements in favor of smaller promotions. Less popular influencers tend to have fewer sponsorships, so the value of their endorsement is less likely to be diluted. Micro, small, and medium influencers mentioned fewer than eight brands during L2’s study period, compared with celebrities’ 20. However, those smaller influencers’ promoted content earned more engagement, demonstrating that thinking outside the box can pay off.

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