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LeBron for Nike, Hayden Panettiere for Neutrogena, and Jennifer Hudson for Weight Watchers are all obvious celebrity endorsement choices, but some come as a bit more of a surprise. It might be the last person you would have guessed to endorse the product, and sometimes the incongruity fails miserably. But what about those few times where an unexpected celebrity endorsement actually works? They’re risky, and sometimes it takes a while to nail down the appeal, but here are a few campaign success stories to take note of.

Alicia Keys and BlackBerry

Alicia Keys image by VersusLiveQuizShow via Flickr.
Alicia Keys image by VersusLiveQuizShow via Flickr.

A multiple Grammy award-winning artist with a soulful voice probably isn’t what BlackBerry first had in mind when searching for a new face for their campaign, but choosing Alicia Keys was quite possibly one of the smartest marketing decisions the brand has ever made. Most people think of BlackBerry as the device of choice for today’s businessman on-the-go, but this implied exclusivity doesn’t appeal to creative, entrepreneurial types who may not fit into this mold.

At BlackBerry Live 2013, Keys discussed the importance of motivating women to achieve success in all professional realms, while honing their creative potential with neat BlackBerry cell phones. Even though her endorsement seems unlikely, Keys offers a brand new face for the brand that makes BlackBerry more inclusive and accessible.

Danica Patrick and Coke Zero

With skinny superstar Taylor Swift promoting Diet Coke, the natural choice for Coke Zero would be another thin and glamorous celeb, right? That’s what you might think, but Coke made a very different move for this calorie-free beverage. Of course, Patrick is also a certified hottie with a rockin’ bod, but she’s also powerful, competitive and daring enough to be one of the only women in the auto racing industry.

This brilliant move by Coke bridges the gap between appealing to women who want to look thin and beautiful, and those who want to be powerful, daring, and maintain their style while drinking a diet beverage. A woman who encompasses all of these characteristics ensures the broadest appeal of the brand according to Forbes.

50 Cent and Vitamin Water

You probably don’t think of a health beverage and a bad boy rapper as a match made in heaven, but for Vitamin Water and 50 Cent, it just seems crazy enough to work. In the early 2000s, 50 Cent was the hottest rapper in the country, which already made him a virtual gold mine for multiple products. With 50 Cent already buying the drink on his own dime, the partnership practically created itself. Vitamin Water offered 50 Cent more than just a spokesman opportunity, but a job as full creative partner of the company — complete with his signature flavor, Formula 50.

With 50’s expertise, the drink rose to $4.1 million when Glaceau was sold to Coca-Cola. Meanwhile, Variety reports that 50’s personal earnings increased by $100 million. Why did this work out so well? 50 Cent might not exactly be the poster child for help, but he did have street cred and a pretty noteworthy physique, which likely had a hand in catapulting the brand’s image.

Meaghan McClellan

Meaghan is the CEO of a small PR firm on the East Coast. She loves running with her dogs on the beach, sailing and reading about the tech industry.