For many years, only major corporate entertainment companies like studios, networks and record companies had the capacity to build entertainment brands. These companies essentially had a monopoly on all mass-market distribution channels and the research on audience spending habits which allowed them to build and sustain brand loyalty. We have all watched billion-dollar empires like The Walt Disney Company develop, market and promote branded products and characters to record profits around tentpole blockbuster movie franchises or hit television shows that are exploited around the world. Today, however, consumers of content have so many options on so many platforms that strong brand identity is a necessity for individual artists and for companies large and small to cut through the clutter.
Being a successful artist requires more than just being talented. It also requires an artist to have some basic strategic business skills and savvy to navigate the shifting industry in order to stay successful. This new reality for artists has fueled a lot of creative deal-making in recent years and an increase in the number of strategic partnerships that align artists with some of the highest profile traditional brands around the world.
In an attempt to gain market share over competitors, many corporate brands are taking on more celebrity endorsers or creating joint ventures with celebrities. While not a new concept, the volume and breadth of this practice in the industry is soaring. Celebrities and their representatives have become a lot more savvy about their how to leverage their celebrity into big dollars and in many cases asking for ownership or stock is not uncommon. Luxury brands that have never used a spokesperson before are now working with celebrities. For example, Max Mara, a global apparel and accessory line, recently began working with Jennifer Garner. Previously this retailer was known for relying solely on its product performance, traditional advertising and word of mouth to reach clientele. However, in a new world where Brad Pitt is a front-man for Channel and Halle Barry and Queen Latifah are promoting L’Oreal, it appears that Max Mara was compelled to join the party and align itself with its own celebrity partner.
Celebrities and other artists are sometimes called “multi-hyphenates” because they demonstrate the ability to have multiple talents and become branded across different mediums. A good example of a multi-hyphenate is Ryan Seacrest who is a radio personality, host of “America Idol, front-man of ABC’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve franchise, producer of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”, among several other television shows, and also a philanthropist through his Ryan Seacrest Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing to the quality of life for seriously ill and injured children.
For virtually all artists, the days of having just one revenue stream or working only one job to maintain your costs of living are over. Entering into strategic partnerships with major brands or creating their own line of products or services to be private labeled within an existing brand are just two avenues for today’s multi-hyphenate celebrity to grow their own brand and revenues.
All of the new entertainment choices for consumers have diluted the monopolies of the old entertainment business and spread the entertainment dollars across a wide variety of distribution platforms. To reach general market consumers and the most loyal fans, celebrities and businesses most think creatively and understand the new technology driven world in which we are now living. Cross-genre marketing is the new branding – and revenue generating – norm for those who understand the new world. A steady line of stars are crossing over from one market to many new areas or industries in order to create greater access to opportunities and to build multiple streams of income. This type of business strategy has become very rewarding for those who have figured out how to build the right team of representatives and manage multiple projects.
Brand partnerships, endorsements with joint ownership when possible and leveraging an individual or corporate brand across various platforms of distribution are essential components to building sustainable success in the entertainment marketplace. However, understanding the new landscape and how to maneuver within it are the new challenges for those who choose to pursue this path. Celebrity and corporate brands must evaluate each opportunity carefully and strategically to ensure that the messaging is on point, the targeted audiences benefit everyone and the collaboration makes business sense for all parties. In success, most artists and businesses find these kinds of joint ventures to be highly profitable and well worth the effort.