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The story when Serena Williams unknowingly became the spokesperson for a cereal brand


Multiples advertisement panels with playful colors for a cereal brand

Marketing genius from a cereal startup

This story happened about a year ago, in March 2023. Indian Wells was underway and Serena Williams was enjoying her retirement with her husband and daughter. She could never had imagined, like many other celebrities and professional athletes, that she would become a spokesperson for an unknown new brand of cereal : Surreal.


What is Surreal, that new cereal brand?

Surreal prides itself as being a healthy and delicious brand of cereal. As their slogan says :

Why can't breakfast cereal be healthy AND taste like it did back in the good ol' days?

Since I have never eaten these cereals (Surreal, if you're reading this, send me a box!), I can't vouch for the deliciousness of the cereals. On the other hand, they do look healthy : they contain no sugar, low carbs, high fibers and even 12 grams of plant-based protein per portion! They're also vegan, gluten free and keto-friendly.


Many professional athletes and celebrities targeted

Serena Williams was not the only celebrity to unknowingly endorse the cereal brand. Surreal used a smart, but probably illegal tactic (This statement does not, and is not intended to constitute legal advice). They payed ordinary people without any fame whatsoever, besides them sharing their name with a celebrity, to eat and endorse their cereals.


In William's case, it was a London student :

"Serena Williams* eats our cereal."
*She is a student from London and we paid her to eat it but the point still stands.

Michael Jordan, Ronaldo and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson all got the same treatment :

"Michael Jordan* loves our cereal."
*He is just a normal bloke who lives in St. Alban's, but he does really like it.

"We're Dwayne Johnson's* favorite cereal."
*He is a bus driver from London.

"Official cereal of Ronaldo*."
*Probably not the one you're thinking of.

But is this legal?

We can’t afford famous celebrities, so we just found normal people with famous names and paid them to say nice things about our cereal.
Now we can use their names wherever we like and no one can stop us*

— SURREAL (@eat_surreal) March 9, 2023


Again, we're not lawyers, but unfortunately the jurisprudence is not on Surreal's side. It happened multiple times in the past that a company or a celebrity would sue, and win their case in these kinds of situations. In 2005, a woman named Sam Buck opened a coffee shop carrying her name : Sambuck's. After refusing a 500$ (!) offer from Starbucks to drop the name, Sam was sued and subsequently lost. Knowing too well the grey zone in which they were, Surreal made an ingenious video ad produced by their "lawyers".


Unlike with her likeliness being used in 2K TopSpin 2K25, Serena Williams was never paid for that unofficial endorsement.


Where is the cereal brand Surreal now?

The last we heard from them, they were still in business and seemed to have avoided legal issues. Their marketing team hasn't slowed down and stayed imaginative! Here is a hilarious video ad they did with their "lawyer".



 

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