10 Brands Whose Sales Increased After Marketing Towards Hip-Hop Culture
What is that one thing that you could recall purchasing simply because someone that you admired either endorsed it, wore it, used it, or maybe even just mentioned it? One of my earliest memories of wanting a particular product for those very reasons took place early during my childhood.
The year was 1994. And like most kids in my neighborhood at the time, I loved football and watching NFL games. Growing up in Oakland, California, the San Francisco 49ers were usually the main NFL team whose games were featured each week on my local television stations (the Raiders returned to Oakland a year later).
That fall, as I sat and watched the 49ers play football each week, one particular football player on the team seemed to jump out of the screen every game. This player was so flashy, so stylish, and so confident—you almost had to pay attention to him. But just as importantly, this player was noticeably better than every opponent that he lined up against. That player was Deion Sanders.
Deion was such a showman, he also dropped a hip-hop album during that football season (check out his music video for Must Be The Money on YouTube if you want to see the epitome of swag).
It was during that season, Deion “Primetime” Sanders became my all time favorite football player. For Christmas that year, the only two gifts that I requested from my parents were a pair of Deion’s signature Nike shoes. And his 49ers football jersey. Thankfully, I received both and to this day, they remain my most cherished Christmas presents ever received.
Looking back, I believe the reason why I coveted those two particular products so much, is that from an aspirational standpoint—they were a representation of a cultural phenomenon. That's because on a world’s stage, Deion’s unapologetic swag transcended all of the societal norms that I was accustomed to—in a good way.
Millions of consumers within hip-hop culture also share those same sentiments, as well as an affinity towards brands that market their products or services towards appealing specifically to the culture. And that affinity often leads to a huge increase in sales for those brands bold enough to do so.
These are ten brands that have been rewarded by consumers for doing just that.
When Apple announced its acquisition of Beats Electronics for a whopping $3 billion back in 2014, many tech investors questioned the move. ‘Why would arguably the most successful tech company in the world pay such an exorbitant amount for a headphones company?’
But what Apple’s astute executives had the foresight of seeing—and sadly, what many other brand execs fail to see even to this day, is the buying power of hip-hop culture.
Spearheaded by the brand’s founders, rapper and producer Andre Young (Dr. Dre) and music executive Jimmy Iovine; Beats headphones were marketed towards hip-hop culture in a way that no product that preceded them had been. For years, the duo made sure that Beats products were placed in music videos by some of the biggest artists in hip-hop.
Their marketing plan worked to perfection. Which is what made it a can't-miss deal for Apple.
Not only did consumers within the culture purchase Beats By Dr. Dre headphones, the acquisition also allowed Apple to convert users of the subscription-based digital music service Beats Music, into Apple Music subscribers (which was created a year after the Beats acquisition).
According to reports, Apple Music made approximately $8.3 billion revenue in 2022.
You know you’ve got something special if a key element of your marketing strategy leads to the largest fast-food chain in the world selling out of its ingredients. Well, that’s exactly what happened in September of 2020, when McDonald's collaborated with hip-hop star Travis Scott for the release of “The Travis Scott Meal.”
The meal became so popular, it led to many McDonald’s locations running out of ingredients.
Following the success of the brand’s collaboration with Scott, McDonald’s has since released signature meals by hip-hop artist Saweetie, and most recently, famed hip-hop couple Cardi B & Offset.
Aside from the recent controversy regarding the Yeezy brand and its namesake, Adidas is a brand that has yielded great results by marketing towards hip-hop culture. In fact, Adidas was actually one of the very first brands to partner with a hip-hop act (signing hip-hop group Run-DMC to an endorsement deal in the mid ‘80s).
In total, it is estimated that Adidas has generated well over $5 billion alone from signature sneakers endorsed by hip-hop artists.
If you were to ask most people which particular Nike sneakers were most expensive, they’d probably guess a signature shoe by one of the brand’s athletes like: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, or the late Kobe Bryant. But those guesses would be incorrect.
Here’s a fun fact, the most expensive pair of Nike sneakers are actually the Solid Gold OVO x Air Jordans. A sneaker that came about as a result of Nike’s collaboration with hip-hop icon Drake.
Nike’s other recent collaborations with hip-hop artists: Kendrick Lamar, Skepta, and Travis Scott have all successfully sold out online on the same day of their respective releases.
Although the Gap’s initial attempt to market towards consumers within hip-hop culture may have not gone quite as planned (you can read all about it here), but the brand’s advertising campaign starring hip-hop artist LL Cool J in 1997 still increased Gap's sales by 300%.
Which is an enormous feat for any advertising campaign.
For years, athletic footwear brands struggled to gain traction in an industry that was aggressively dominated by the king of the category—Nike. But in 2003, Reebok executives identified and addressed a gap in the market at the time.
The gap they identified was the lack of representation in the sneaker industry by the most influential people in popular culture—hip-hop artists.
After witnessing huge success with the release of Allen Iverson’s A5 signature sneaker just two years prior (Reebok’s ad campaign for the sneaker starred Iverson alongside hip-hop artist Jadakiss), with assistance from advertising legend Steve Stoute, Reebok partnered with rappers Jay-Z, and later 50 Cent, to release signature sneakers for both superstars. Which both sold incredibly well.
“I remember that back to school we sold on one color, like 75,000 pairs.” Said Todd Krinsky, CEO of Reebok, in an interview with the Complex Sneakers podcast in regards to the success of 50 Cent’s G-Unit sneaker.
Having already profited from sales generated by numerous mentions from hip-hop artists like the late Tupac Shakur, Hennessey sales had an additional uptick after the brand made it a priority to position their product as the go-to cognac for adults within hip-hop culture.
Brand ambassador deals with hip-hop artists Rakim, Vector, and Nas, have all helped Hennessey accomplish that objective.
The rollout for Jay-Z’s thirteenth studio album, 4:44 (released in 2017), left millions of his fans around the world completely baffled. That’s because it was announced that as part of the album’s release strategy, a download arrangement between Sprint and Tidal allowed Sprint customers to download the album for free (which at the time, was a new concept).
Sprint purchased one million advanced copies of the album, resulting in the album going platinum in just six days. The album was so coveted by fans of the Brooklyn MC, many became Sprint customers simply just so they could listen to the album early—which was a win for Sprint, Tidal, and Jay-Z.
Sprite will always get props as being the very first soft drink brand to focus multiple advertising campaigns towards appealing to hip-hop culture (which began in 1990). But back in 1996, during one of the most tumultuous times in hip-hop; as part of its “Obey Your Thirst” campaign, Sprite released one of the most memorable commercials in the brand’s history.
The commercial, titled, "Rhyme For Rhyme" starred hip-hop legends KRS-One and MC Shan (along with DJ Kid Capri serving as referee). The ad showcased the storied MCs lyrically battling one another inside of a boxing ring in front of an audience. Providing hip-hop fans plenty of nostalgia as they recalled the diss records both rappers made towards one another in the late ‘80s.
To this day, many consumers still have an affinity towards Sprite for involving hip-hop culture in their “Obey Your Thirst” campaign. So much so that by the late ‘90s, Sprite had tripled its sales and has been the leading brand in the citrus soft drink category ever since.
Not long ago, you couldn’t drive five minutes on any major expressway in the U.S. without seeing a Chrysler 300 beside you at some point. One of the main reasons for that was the popularization of the vehicle by hip-hop artists in their music videos in the early ‘00s.
Acknowledging the impact that hip-hop culture had on sales, Chrysler partnered with Dr. Dre back in 2011 to design speakers for the Chrysler 300. Dre also starred in his own commercial for the vehicle titled, “Good Things.”
And to get even cozier with the culture, Chrysler also featured music from Jay-Z’s song, “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)" in its “If You’re Gonna” commercial showcasing the 300; helping to give the car even more cultural cred. Which as Chrysler execs could attest—is extremely valuable.