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Creative K-pop

K-Pop collabs: how brands are buying into one of South Korea’s greatest export


By Imogen Watson, Senior reporter

August 6, 2020 | 5 min read

As the hugely popular world of K-Pop continues to rack up millions of views online, brands are rapidly realising that they need to get involved. Here, we take a look at some of the most interesting collabs so far.

Considered by many to be South Korea’s greatest export, K-Pop is not only one of the world’s fastest growing music phenomenons, it is one of its most lucrative industries (BTS, the biggest boy band in the world, is purportedly worth more than $4.5bn to South Korea’s economy, 0.3% of its total GPD).

Beyond ticket sales, music downloads and merchandise, K-Pop stars amass their fortune through sponsorship. And, given their growing popularity across the globe, there’s a long waiting list of brands eager to get a slice of the action.

Iridescent and pumped with contagious energy, it’s hard to distinguish a lot of K-Pop ads from actual music videos... as you’ll see for yourself below as we look at the hottest ads to come out of the world of K-Pop.

Hyundai: Positive Energy

The first band to produce three No 1 albums in under a year since the Beatles, BTS is kind of a big deal. Keen to tap into their popularity, Hyundai made the band its global brand ambassadors in 2018. And to mark World Environment Day this year, Hyundai flexed its long-standing creative partnership with the K-Pop music sensations.

Coca-Cola: Taste the Feeling

Featuring the boy band NCT 127, ’Taste the Feeling’ is part ad, part music video. A K-Pop edition of Coca-Cola’s signature song, snippets of the brand surface throughout the ad, including them spray painting a mural and quenching their thirst from its iconic bottle.

Korean Air: Safety Video

New on the scene, SuperM is a handpicked super-group made up from K-pop’s most successful bands. Set to the track ’You Can Go Anywhere’, this safety video for Korean Air sees the boy group make their way on to a flight through a futuristic airport. It also stars influential K-Pop singer BoA. On its release last year, the airline said it wanted to ”contribute to the spread of K-pop and Korean pop culture around the world”.

Samsung: All-New Galaxy A with Blackpink

Of Blackpink’s numerous accolades, the K-Pop band has the record for the most-viewed music video within 24 hours of release, while its track ’How You Like That’ set five Guinness World Records and the group is the most-followed girl group on Spotify. Keen to leverage their popularity, at the beginning of this year Samsung worked with Blackpink for the launch of its Galaxy A80.

Samsung: Galaxy X BTS

After collaborating with Blackpink, Samsung set about positioning itself as the mobile brand for K-Pop, striking a deal with the world’s most popular boy band BTS earlier this year.

Jinro Soju: In Search of Clean Dew

Not all partnerships with K-Pop end in success it seems, the South Korean government blaming K-Pop for an increase in women’s drinkers due to the rise of female celebrities appearing in alcohol advertising.

In 2014, K-pop star IU became the face of Chamisul Soju at the age of 21, while actress and television presenter Lee Hyori was the face of Lotte Liquor’s Chumchurum. Irene of K-pop girl group Red Velvet replaced IU as Chamisul’s main model in 2018.

It’s a highly lucrative business, with these celebrities reportedly earning up to $16.8m a year to appear from campaigns for alcohol brands. Despite its concerns, the South Korean government has not banned K-Pop stars from endorsing alcoholic drinks.

Fans: Subway Billboards

Seoul Metro ads

And it’s not just brands that are behind K-Pop ads. As proof of the absurd popularity of K-Pop stars, dedicated fans have actually raised money to buy advertising space in Korean train stations to celebrate their favourite stars’ birthdays, comebacks or anniversaries. In 2019, Seoul Metro put up 227 ads for BTS, 165 for EXO, 159 for Wanna One and 127 for NCT.

As the sensational world explodes in popularity across the globe, expect nothing less than a massive influx of brands tapping into the culture, longing for a cut of K-Pop’s genius branding.

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