Brands are reaching out to hip-hop stars by the dozen to help them shell out products and 2009 will be no different. 2008 saw its share of good hip-hop branding (Boost Mobile) and its so-so (Common and Zune) and then awful (the Holiday Inn freestyle).
I saw the Music Video for 'Nike Boots' by Wale a few days ago and thought it was a great song by one of XXL's class of 2009. As I was doing some research I found out that the song was from 2007 and Wale's Mixtape '100 Miles and Running' that was distributed free online. Digging deeper I saw that Nike actually tapped Wale to play a Nike Boots event called DC Stand Up at Ibiza Nightclub in DC on January 15, 2008 which was sponsored by Nike and Footaction.
Here is the video for 'Nike Boots.'
Aside from Wale having an understanding of the power of online and social marketing, I wanted to tap into Nike acknowledging the fact that having a brand advocate like Wale is good for business. Wale's signature logo is a string of a lace looped to spell out his name. He has a blog site, Elitaste, that features a Nike shoe collection and brokerage.
Nike hasn't sponsored Wale like they would Jordan or LeBron, but they have given Wale some attention and opened the door to further communication. Something that Louis Vuitton did not do with T.I.
Brands that accept their position with youth culture and use brand advocates as marketing tactics have a supreme upper hand. Getting word of mouth promotions from high profile spokespeople, at no cost for the brand, will always have more authenticity than a big budget attempt at reaching kids and wallets.
So how does a brand find a Wale?
Wale is an exceptional talent. He is young, has the heart, desire and swagger that will make him a superstar within the next 365. For the most part he is clean and not trying to cause trouble, except for the credit cards of kids on iTunes.
Brands looking to find a Wale are in for a culture shock. You can't. You can't force a trend on an influencer. They seek it out. Brands need to be authentic to their culture. Nike has the luxury of being a basketball powerhouse, ad having a strong hold on urban culture. This makes hip-hop a great influence on the brand. It is not a stretch.
For something like an energy drink, playing into the extreme sports realm is a no-brainer. The problem is they know nothing about the culture and throw a hot chick in a bikini and give out free samples at events. Kids read right through it.
Finding authenticity is hard.
Or so most brands would have you think. When you are in your next brainstorm session, have a talk about what makes you excited. What music, tv shows and cultures get your blood going, not the ones that music mags say are hot. The sooner you do this the sooner an artist like Wale will pay attention and write a song like 'Nike Boots.'
And you are going to like it.
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