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By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

July 8, 2024 | 10 min read

The showcase of luxury fashion, culture and sport in the French capital grabbed headlines around the world for its huge celebrity draw. But its success is not only the result of its spectacular presentation but an intricate web of brand partnerships and strategic marketing.

Like many publishers, fashion title Vogue has had to adapt to the changing media landscape to remain relevant. Storytelling solely through words on glossy magazine pages no longer cuts through with fast-paced audiences who crave entertainment. While at its core Vogue excels at telling compelling and resonating stories, now it is leveraging new formats to captivate and engage its audience.

Over the past three years, Anna Wintour and her team have been crafting an annual tentpole event for the magazine called Vogue World. Launched in New York in 2022 and followed by a London event the following year, the spectacle arrived in Paris this June. Vogue World is a live editorial fashion show staged in the heart of the world’s most stylish cities, celebrating fashion and culture in grandiose style.

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Although still in its infancy for the Condé Nast brand, this year’s Vogue World saw a notable increase in scale and garnered significant interest. The event also raised a minimum of €1 million to Secours Populaire.

On a gray Sunday evening, 188 athletes, 151 models, 70 dancers and a 40-piece orchestra took over the streets of Paris. The spectacle began with a performance at the Ritz and culminated with 20 international breakdancers taking over Place Vendôme.

The theme of the night was the evolution of style over the past century, with each decade of fashion paired with a different sport. The Roaring Twenties were matched with cycling, the elegant mid-century gowns of the 1950s with equestrian sports, the leotard- and lycra-obsessed 1970s with gymnastics and the 1990s, known as the Wag era, with football.

Much like its other flagship event, The Met Gala, Vogue World attracted a mass of celebrities to its extravaganza. Venus and Serena Williams brought star sporting power, while Aya Nakamura and Bad Bunny delivered performances that lit up the night. And the runway? It was a huge display, with Sabrina Carpenter, Katy Perry, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Colman Domingo stealing the spotlight and leaving fans buzzing.

It’s a marketer’s dream

Bree McKenney, global senior vice-president at Condé Nast Creative, tells The Drum: “What Anna has built with Vogue World, globally, is really this whole universe of inspiration. It’s a marketer’s dream. A big part of it was figuring out which are the right brand partners to bring into this universe, which stories can we tell authentically.”

Some of those sponsors include eBay and Coach. Snowboarder Chloe Kim sported a complete eBay-sourced ensemble, spotlighting the platform’s ‘Eternal Eras’ campaign. The event also featured a creative Coach film starring Normani, blending sport and style in the Paris setting.

“It was a rich place for us to play with brands that are interested in celebrating their own level of excellence, championing their legacy and history,” explains McKenney. “Those are the brands that we found were most fruitful to kind of bring into the Vogue World universe to be a part of it and integrate into it. But so much of what that was was a set for content generation.”

The live stream was a place Vogue could build on these experiences for its sponsors. After 24 hours, the footage saw unique views across markets spike by 98% year-on-year, while total engaged minutes increased by 36% year-on-year. The event garnered a total of 219m views across all platforms and markets.

Earned v paid media

In terms of key performance indicators (KPIs), these are huge brands with huge budgets – and even bigger expectations of getting their return on investment.

“The majority of the partners were kind of non-endemic,” says Craig Kostelic, Condé Nast’s global chief business officer. He explains that eBay might seem non-endemic initially, but by promoting its luxury marketplace, it acts as an endemic platform targeting a wider audience that doesn’t typically consider eBay for high-end purchases.

Kostelic adds that, in terms of Vogue World and from a KPI perspective, the focus is on integrating paid media KPIs, such as impressions, engagement and attention, with earned media value, and that this has been a major priority over the past 12 months.

He adds: “More and more media has moved to the likes of Facebook and Google and the media conversation has gotten really commoditized. So, there has been a further kind of detachment between earned media value and paid media value. But at the same time, consumers are looking at it all as one thing [when it shows up on their feeds].

“We’re trying to do a better a better job of getting higher up in the food chain, in terms of when you look at talent deals and brand ambassadors, those are happening at the highest levels of the company.”

As a whole, Condé Nast aims to integrate talent and media partnerships with earned media value into a cohesive strategy, positioning them as a key component of a marketer’s overall brand approach. This upstream focus ensures that the company is seen as a strategic partner rather than just another media option, like Facebook or Google, and reinforces its value in the early stages of strategy development.

The art and science of walking the tightrope

Selecting brand partners is both an art and a science. Vogue World is highly selective, apparently ensuring that the brands it collaborates with are appropriate for the event’s high profile. McKenney notes the importance of maintaining the purity of Vogue’s editorial vision while also pushing the boundaries to meet the diverse needs of their audience. There’s a fine line between navigating the global mindset of Vogue and regional brand expressions. This balance is crucial in aligning the brand identities of Vogue and its advertisers, making sure each collaboration feels authentic and integrated.

“From a business perspective, the advertising budgets in the US are always the biggest,” says Kostelic. “There’s a balancing act about how you make sure it works for global and US budgets while also respecting the local cultural expression and interpretation because if you’re just going to bring American culture to France, there’s going to be rejection. That’s the tightrope that we’re walking all the time.”

The role of talent

Talent selection is another critical component of Vogue World’s strategy. Condé Nast’s extensive connections in the celebrity community provide a significant advantage, of course. McKenney highlights how the dedicated talent team works to find celebrities who align with both the event’s fashion focus and the brand’s marketing goals.

Chloe Kim

She continues that eBay, for example, wanted to find talent with an emerging audience that didn’t strictly align with Vogue’s right now. Gold medal-winning snowboarder Chloe Kim was a perfect fit.

“She had this story about her first snowboard that she ever used that her father bought on eBay,” explains McKenney. “On top of that, she has this great social audience. She’s this emerging kind of Gen Z, dynamic personality who doesn’t have established fashion credibility but fashion enthusiasm. She wants to understand it more, she has a playfulness around fashion. And that’s something that our talent team could understand.”

This story played out in branded cutaways during the livestream and will also be featured in the upcoming August print issue of Vogue.

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McKenney says playfulness is important and you get a sense that the brand is trying to move away from an elitist image prevalent within luxury fashion. “That’s what I see in Vogue World now. It’s to be able to wink at some things and to have a sense of humor. What it really is built on is a foundation of such confidence in what the brand represents.”

The duo teases that a couple of core partners come back each year and conversations with them happen pretty quickly after the event is over. The next location, though? That’s top secret for now.

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