One disgusted look, a smirk, and a decisive gesture to put two Coca-Cola bottles out of the cameras’ sight. Just a few seconds into his Euro 2020 press conference, Cristiano Ronaldo managed to wipe 4 billion off Coca-Cola’s value. He also made it very clear that “aqua”, or water, is his preferred drink of choice despite starring in an ad for the famous sugary carbonated drink years back. Four billion: now that’s influence. And he’s not the only one whose opinion mattered to the public so much it caused the stock investors, marketers, and PR departments of the world’s most valuable brands to lose their minds.
Elon’s little crypto games
Does he do it on purpose or not? Hard to tell, but Elon Musk’s favorite pastime seems to be derailing bitcoin’s value depending on what he had for breakfast. The ups and downs have become pretty much impossible to follow. But hey, at least crypto journalists have something to write about every other day.
Let’s not go further than this June in Elon’s crypto saga. On June 4th, he posted a meme suggesting that he’s “breaking up” with bitcoin. Yet again, he sent bitcoin on a downhill path, only to cause the highly volatile cryptocurrency to soar above $40,000 a few days later. The reason? He tweeted that Tesla will accept bitcoin transactions once the mining process becomes more sustainable.
Musk has also repeatedly hyped Dogecoin. The joke cryptocurrency that has become a serious player (for now) that seems to depend on whatever Musk will tweet. We’ll leave it up to you to decide if it’s moral to fool around with your influence when it comes to someone’s possible savings. Well, at least Elon is having fun.
When Kylie Jenner is over Snapchat
“Sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad,” Kylie Jenner tweeted in 2018, or the pre-TikTok times. And just like that, the reality TV star wiped about $1.3 billion off the company’s market value. With approximately 25 million followers at the time echoing the frustration of Snapchat’s redesign, she’s had the power to cause some serious trouble.
And when her sister, Kendall Jenner, apologized for a controversial Pepsi ad, she might as well have apologized to the falling company stock, too.
The ethics of influence
With power comes responsibility. You can’t really blame Cristiano Ronaldo for despising Coca-Cola full of sugar. It’s a man whose body is a temple, after all. And arguably, you could be annoyed with Elon’s little mind games that turn crypto into a circus. The power of celebrity influence is immense due to the rise of social media, and the ethical responsibility that comes with it isn’t lost on many of them.
In 2018, the University of Virginia religious studies professor John Portmann released a book called Celebrity Morals and the Loss of Religious Authority. In an interview for Phys.org, he argued that celebrities indeed do act as today’s moral compass.
“By the 1990s and the 2000s—with the political arena seeing more and more scandals, as well as sex scandals among priests—celebrities like Oprah [Winfrey], Meryl Streep and many more were speaking out on a whole range of issues, and Americans were getting more access to these celebrities on social media. Now, things have shifted so quickly that it’s almost expected for celebrities to do this—and notable if they do not,” he explained.
Portmann believes it’s fascinating that we don’t listen to self-proclaimed “perfect”, upstanding citizens. As he explained, they had failed us when they turned out to make mistakes or even did terrible things. Celebrities rarely build their reputations on being flawless moral authority, and perhaps that’s why we trust them more.
Still: it might be a good idea to be careful when taking crypto advice from Elon.