Ownership is the new endorsement.
There has been an awakening. Have you felt it? It began as a low hum early last year but will culminate in a deafening buzz on Saturday. That’s when the Beyhive will swarm the internet and retail stores, clamoring to consume every morsel of the new Ivy Park x Adidas collection launched by Beyoncé and the sports giant.
Earlier this week Beyoncé, in a full display of her ongoing marketing genius, rolled out sneak peeks of the new product line through stunning photos to her 138 million Instagram followers, a brand video to her 20 million YouTube followers, and giant orange trunks full of goods to celebrity pals like Ellen and Reese Witherspoon to create their own unboxing videos.
While the products hit stores and online on January 18, the hype train left the station last April when Beyoncé announced she was taking her personal athleisure brand Ivy Park to the three stripes. That move came about six months after she took full ownership control of Ivy Park, after two and a half years of co-ownership with Topshop.
The comparisons to Adidas’ relationship to Kanye were immediate and apt. Like Kanye, Beyoncé wasn’t just signing on to become another glorified brand ambassador; she was a global superstar and brand owner starting a business and creative partnership with the sportswear company. And considering that Yeezy sales and popularity helped take Kanye from $50 million in debt to billionaire, anticipation for what Beyoncé might accomplish has been high.
Back in 2018, NPD Group sports industry analyst Matt Powell wrote that the paid celebrity endorsement model was broken. “Consumers have begun to realize how phony these pay-to-wear deals are. Celebrities have not loyalty to brands, or fans. They simply will endorse whatever they are paid to wear… The sports industry needs to return to the days of authentic and honest endorsement, where the relationship is guided by passion and emotion, not by big paychecks.”
Given its hype and Beyoncé’s unwavering longevity as a cultural powerhouse, Ivy Park x Adidas may become the standard bearer for the new age of endorsement, one that goes far beyond the broken, transactional hold-the-product-and-smile model and into something much more authentic: ownership. What started (arguably) with Michael Jordan evolved to Kanye’s Yeezy, but is also behind the meteoric rise of Rihanna’s Fenty, Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics, and even variations like Dwayne Johnson’s Project Rock at Under Armour. We’ve seen this model play out for a while in booze, with every celeb and their mom emerging as a part-owner in a tequila distillery. But sneakers and sportswear have a much bigger pop cultural (ahem) footprint.
In this new model, the celebrity’s style, influence, and financial stake is clear. Kanye reportedly earns 5% royalties on net sales of Yeezy shoes and apparel, which hit more than $1.3 billion last year. No specific financial details have been released about Beyoncé’s deal, but considering they both brought pre-existing brands to Adidas and carry similar celebrity clout, it could be comparable. Adidas is certainly hoping the sales are comparable to Yeezy’s heyday a few years back. The company’s Q3 earnings did not impress back in November, and CEO Kasper Rorsted was sure to remind analysts of the impending Beyoncé release.
Fans want more than phony and will shop in droves when these collections truly embody the names attached to them. Ownership is the new endorsement. And so far, Beyoncé is leading a master class.
This article first appeared in www.fastcompany.com
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