The revelation that an endorser lied about his whereabouts on September 11 led a national sports-themed restaurant chain to stop airing commercials where the actor uttered the line, “But don’t just take my word for it.”
Actor Steven Rannazzisi spoke on multiple occasions about how his experience on September 11, 2001, changed his life. In more than one interview, he said he was an account manager at Merrill Lynch working on the 54th floor of the South Tower when the first plane hit. He said “we were like jostled all over the place,” and that he still has “dreams of like, you know, those falling dreams” Because of his experience, Rannazzisi said he quit his job and took up his true love of comedy and acting.
But on the fourteenth anniversary of the attack, Rannazzisi admitted that his story was a lie after The New York Times confronted him with evidence that he was in Midtown when the attack occurred and had never worked for Merrill Lynch. “I was not at the Trade Center on that day,” he said in a statement. “I don’t know why I said this. This was inexcusable. I am truly, truly sorry.”
The fabrication not only impacted Rannazzisi, but also forced the sports-themed national chain, for which he appeared in an advertising campaign, to abandon his commercials just as the restaurant reached its busiest time of year—football season. In the commercials, Rannazzisi sings the praises of the restaurant (from the snacks to multiple TVs that display more than one game at a time) and concludes with, “But don’t just take my word for it, take someone else’s word for it,” before Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith appears.
The national chain pulled the ads, stating that “upon careful review, we have decided to discontinue airing our current television commercials featuring Steve Rannazzisi.”
Why it matters: The story is just the latest example of the risk brands take by associating themselves with a celebrity endorser. From Rannazzisi’s lies to Jared Fogle’s recent guilty plea on charges related to child pornography to one company’s run-in with the Food and Drug Administration over a Kim Kardashian tweet, companies must carefully consider the pros and cons of a relationship with celebrities.