NEW YORK, United States — There are the Reese’s Puffs cereal boxes that sold out in seconds. And the Nike sneakers that command thousands of dollars on the secondary market. Don’t forget the McDonald’s promotion that led to burger shortages at some restaurants.
It seems everything Travis Scott touches these days creates a consumer frenzy. And he sure does touch a lot.
The rapper has partnered with an unusually diverse array of brands to churn out everything from food to apparel to toys and more. The result is an entire economy of highly sought-after Scott-branded products, giving companies a ready-made way to generate hype and reach young consumers. The McDonald’s promo even helped the fast-food chain return to growth in the U.S. last quarter.
It’s not unusual for musicians to collaborate with brands, releasing limited-edition fashion collections or sneaker lines. But Scott’s tie-ups can be more expansive — and, frankly, odd — than the usual endorsements. You can thank the rapper, for instance, for a body pillow shaped like a chicken McNugget.
Scott’s team views the deals as a way to stay active between album cycles. But each needs to deliver creative flair so that he doesn’t become over-saturated with licenses or known for boring partnerships. A representative for Scott declined to share the financial terms of his recent deals.
For Scott, a Grammy-nominated artist with multiple No. 1 singles, the key to these deals is creative control, said David Stromberg, general manager of Scott’s Cactus Jack business.
“The intersection of art and commerce is a curious one,” said Stromberg, who likened consumer brands to contemporary versions of the great art benefactors of old. “Since we don’t have a modern-day Medici family to be patrons of the arts, we look to McDonald’s, Fortnite, etc., to fill that void.”
Last year, General Mills Inc. offered a special-edition Scott-themed box of Reese’s Puffs, along with a matching cereal bowl and spoon. Earlier this year, the artist released Hot Wheels toy cars with Cactus Jack branding. In April, he performed a concert within the online battle-royale island world of Epic Games’s Fortnite, and 27.7 million people showed up, virtually.
It’s “very, very rare” for an artist to effectively endorse such a variety of brands, said Jeff Carvalho, managing director of streetwear site Highsnobiety. While Scott is a hugely popular figure in the world of hip hop, Carvalho said he has an advantage by also being relatively family-friendly.
“His ability to put a smile on the face of a 15- or 16-year-old and a new parent that connects with that music is hugely beneficial,” he said.
Scott’s recent deal with McDonald’s Corp. featured a special meal and a bunch of limited-edition merchandise, like apparel, a floor rug and even an action figure of the rapper holding a tray of fast food. The quarter-pounder meal was so popular some locations reportedly had burger shortages.
The promotion, which started Sept. 8, helped push the chain to growth in its home market last quarter, with comparable U.S. sales climbing 4.6% even as global sales fell from the same period last year. In a statement, McDonald’s cited “strategic marketing investments and resulting promotional activity” that particularly helped during September. When asked for specifics on the Scott deal, the company didn’t immediately comment.
Fans clamour for many of Scott’s products, which has created heavy demand on the secondary market. Limited runs mean there’s scarcity, a phenomenon common in sneakers and streetwear, where rare goods can resell for many times their retail price.
Several of Scott’s Nike kicks sell on the secondary market for more than $1,000, with one particularly rare design -- the Jordan 4 Retro Travis Scott Purple -- having gone for more than $25,000 on sneaker marketplace StockX. Shoppers tracking the McNugget pillows, which cost $90 at retail, have seen the price jump to more than $700.
Wall Street is starting to take notice, too. In a note Thursday, Wells Fargo analyst Jon Tower cited the Scott tie-in as a sign that McDonald’s can reach more young consumers and recover faster than anticipated.
So how far can the Travis Scott name go? His team may keep pushing to find out. Stromberg, the Cactus Jack manager, said it’s a balancing act, but people’s attention spans are shorter than ever and these promotions attract new fans.
“The alternative is irrelevance,” he said. “I think ‘leave them wanting more’ went out the window years ago.”
By Kim Bhasin.