How Rihanna became the most brand savvy celebrity

It’s official. Rihanna is the world’s most marketable celebrity.

The R&B star has outranked celebrities including Beyoncé, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Khloe Kardashian and basketball’s Stephen Curry, according to data from global information provider The NPD Group.

“Rihanna is the most marketable of all big-name celebrities, with fans that have more distinctive brand preferences than any other big-name celebrity in any genre (including athletes, actors, musicians, and others),” NPD said.

According to its findings, a celebrity is considered to be a strong endorsement opportunity for a brand if the fans of that celebrity are at least 50% more likely to use the brand.

Thus, the 27 year-old singer landed an index score of 367, which is almost 3.7 times as many strong brand endorsement opportunities as the average big-name celebrity.

The news has come at a great time, Rihanna is set to debut her first trainer (sneaker) collection with Puma at New York Fashion Week in February 2016, after her ‘Creeper’ shoe was a runaway sales success for Puma in 2015.

“For retail brands, the attraction of working with Rihanna is her mainstream global appeal, but what I think is really interesting is that her Puma collaboration reflects a huge shift in sportswear marketing from using athletes to using celebrities as the face of campaigns and brand ambassadors,” says Clare Varga, WGSN Active Director.

“This is very different to sportswear marketing in the 90s at the height of the Nike and Michael Jordan partnership, when athletes were the celebrities and would cause footwear to fly off shelves. Athletes are now reserved for the elite performance products, but to reach a mass market, brands know celebs have a greater reach,” adds Varga.

Rihanna’s appeal isn’t limited to footwear brands, she also helped UK fashion chain River Island to hit a 70% rise in 2014 profits with her celebrity collaborations.


“Rihanna has an incredibly huge reach, which is not only down to her great pop anthems – I think a majority of people are intrigued by the rebellious streak to her character, too. Also, from a style perspective, she really is a fashion chameleon. She can do glam, sultry, tomboy, androgynous… All with a pinch of her signature bad gal Riri attitude, of course” says Laura Yiannakou, WGSN Womenswear Associate Editor.

Interestingly, in addition to her huge apparel and footwear deals, NPD said motor brand Jeep was one of the brands driving Rihanna’s top endorsement score with her fans showing a distinct preference for that brand.

Beyoncé, who has a successful and growing collaboration with UK fashion retailer Topshop, was the second-best big-name celebrity with a Brand Endorsement Score of 336. Also in the Top Ten are: Ne-Yo, Usher, Wiz Khalifa, The Weeknd, Jennifer Lopez, Kevin Hart, Dr Dre and Khloé Kardashian.

The organisation said the study was powered by its BrandLink database of responses from 92,000 consumer surveys covering 1,000 celebrities and 2,500 brands across automotive, consumer packaged goods, beauty/fashion, financial services, restaurants, technology, and others.

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