Culture Hack

Culture Hack

Who Benefits Most in Partnerships, Brands or Their Celebrities?

In the past year, Travis Scott partnered with global fast food company McDonald’s to put out a specialized meal and a line of merchandise. This collaboration had waves of fans running to their local McDonald’s just so they could experience some of that Cactus Jack magic. Scott walked away from the deal with $20 million and $15 million from his personal merchandise funds. Articles praised the rapper for the smart business decision, saying that he was the cause of a boost of sales for McDonald’s. But, when McDonald’s is a multi-billion dollar company, how much of a benefit is it for him compared to this established brand? 

While previous versions of celebrity and brand partnerships were clearly for the benefit of brands more than they were for the celebrities behind them, the most recent partnerships are complicating things a little more. Though McDonald’s did see a 4.6% gain after its partnership with Travis Scott, the company did contribute to Scott’s legacy in a big way. The iconic merch put out from this collaboration could be a key element of 2020s pop culture, something generations remember for years. 

On the other hand, McDonald’s has gained a special relationship with this generation, especially the fans of rap. To curate a meal — something that feels so set in stone — and turn it into an experience has set the pace for its competitors. And it doesn’t just stop at Scott. Later this month, McDonald’s is partnering with the biggest global artist right now, BTS. By collaborating with BTS, McDonald’s will be tapping into its worldwide network of locations to create a shared experience for its consumers and the band’s fans all over the world. Surely this is more of a financial and credibility gain than what Travis Scott and the other artists will make.

So why are artists jumping at the opportunity? The most relevant answer would be novelty. These artists most likely grew up consuming McDonald’s and have good childhood memories attached to the fast food service. It is almost like an invisible badge of honor, a sign that they have made it in the eyes of the public. For McDonald’s, this badge of honor signifies that no matter what generation they are serving, they can always find a way to be the number one fast food chain around the world. 

There may not be a clear winner when it comes to who benefits more from celebrity-brand partnerships but one thing is clear: the most effective way to go about them is with full effort, an intention to connect with consumers, and a certain amount of creative license for celebrities to be as involved in the partnership as possible.