Yesterday’s news that Beyoncé will partner with Topshop on a new line of athletic street wear is a really interesting and exciting announcement, and one which has sparked huge interest across the industry. It’s a partnership which will be the envy of many retailers, and will drive significant benefits for both parties.
We all know celebrity ambassadors can be really important for brands, but these partnerships are only beneficial when they are meaningful: gone are the days when partnerships were just about mutual publicity. Now, brands want someone who not only resonates with their ethos but translates into direct sales, and celebrities- at least at Beyoncé's level- will only get involved in partnerships which will amplify their own interests and speak to their core values – the best deals are non-transactional in the traditional cash-up- front sense and focused on both sides getting a long term capital return.
The success of equity based deals such as Beats by Dre or Puff Daddy for Ciroc have re-written all the rules. Finding the right ambassador, who is willing and open to investing time in a partnership, for the potential of a bigger return in the future, is difficult. Likewise, finding a brand capable of being a good entrepreneurial business partner, is also not easy. However when it’s right, it can really work and provide mutual reputational and commercial benefit, as Beats, Ciroc, Honest Company, Vitamin Water and many more have proved.
This particular deal is a prime example of a dream partnership. On the brand side, this category of athletic street wear has been a hot topic in recent years and there is comparatively little competition in this lucrative area, outside of category buster Lululemon. Topshop doesn’t have a track record in this space, so a celebrity partner, with the style authenticity, a proven retail tract record- just look at her fragrance business!- and a global fan base, would have been absolutely vital for them.
When Uniqlo partnered with Novak Djokovich, that was a similar game-changer in perception. As an all-round superwomen and arguably the world’s favourite female performer, Beyoncé is not only a credible fit but an exciting signing, allowing Topshop to break into this fast expanding category. Adding an extra layer to the complexity of the deal, she will also give them much needed cachet in the US, accelerating the brands growth in the world’s largest retail market.
From Beyoncé’s perspective, having participated in several traditional endorsements over the years, it’s the deal that is interesting in itself; she would likely never have got this arrangement from a bigger retailer like H&M or any of the big US department store groups, as they do not do equity deals, and instead use talent to promote their core business.
Of course for Topshop being a privately owned company, this would not have posed such an issue for Sir Phillip, who can take a more flexible approach the structure of his talent deals.
Emma Grede is the CEO of ITB Worldwide, which secures entertainment, fashion and talent based partnerships for leading retailers and brands.