Celebrity Licensing

AuthorMichael Sanford Stone
ProfessionB.A. from Hamilton College and a J.D. from Emory University School of Law
Celebrity Licensing
You may never be involved in a celebrity licensing program and
may wonder why the subject is included in a book about brand
licensing. e reason is that a handful of celebrities have achieved
true brand status entirely th rough licensing. An understanding of
how they have accomplished this is instructive for existing brands
seeking to grow through licensing as well as new brands seek ing
to achieve consumer awareness. As you will discover, this sub-
ject provides insight about the dos and don’ts of brand licensing,
including several best practices, a nd does so entertainingly.
Celebrity licensing has been going on for many years but has
accelerated in recent years. is includes musicians (such as Adam
Levine, Jennifer Lopez, a nd Beyoncé), movie stars (such as Drew
Barrymore and Gwyneth Paltrow), television performers and
actors (such as Ryan Seacrest), reality TV stars (such as Bethenny
Frankel and Donald Trump before he became president), public
gures (such as the Kardashians), supermodels (such as Heidi
Klum, Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, and Iman), chefs (such as
Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, and Jamie Oliver), athletes (such as
Shaun White and Michael Vicks), estates of deceased celebrities
The Power of Licensing
(such as Bob Marley and Marilyn Monroe),1 and inuencers (such
as Cupcakes and Cashmere and Michelle Phan).
Celebrities are beating on retail executive suites and t he doors
of manufacturers like never before, presenting themselves as t he
next big “brand” in a pa rticular product category. And some are
simply launching online on their own (Reese Witherspoon, for
example). Hundreds of celebrities have tried to enter the consumer
product space over the past 20 years. Although many of these
eorts fail, some are successful and, as noted earlier, a select
handful achieve tr ue brand status.
Recently, several celebrities have decided to take a bigger stake
in their consumer product program, both oine and online, by
owning all or par t of the company selling the products. is
includes Goop (Gwyneth Paltrow), e Honest Company (Jessica
Alba), L.A.M.B. (Gwen Stefani), Flower Beauty (Drew Barrymore),
and Draper James (Reese Witherspoon).2
Fragrances have historically been an active category
celebrities use to establish a product platform. However, very
few lines survive long term (Eli zabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds
being the mega exception, having launched in 1991 and still a
top seller) and the celebrity is more akin to an endorser than a
“brand.” Recent fragrance introductions include Justin Bieber,
Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Jennifer Lopez. Some say it all began
with Sophia Loren in 1981; others, with Cher in 1987. But most
agree that the success of Jennifer Lopez’s Glow launched in 2002
was a tipping point for many celebrities to license their name for
a fragrance. In 2014, 72 celebrity fragrances were introduced,
1. e estates of deceas ed celebrities, dependi ng on legal rights of publicity, which v ary
from state to state, gene rally are licen sing use more for advertis ing or theatrica l purposes
than for retai l product. Nevertheless, t here are some instances of licen sed retail prod-
uct utiliz ing the intellectua l property of a deceased cele brity quite successfu lly, such as
Michael Jackson a nd Elvis Presley.
2. Simila rly, some celebrities have taken a st ake in their ow n alcohol product line, s uch as
Justin Timberla ke’s 901 Tequila, George Clooney’s Cas amigos tequila , Bethenny Fran kel’s
Skinnygi rl cocktails (she later sold it), Sean “Didd y” Combs’s Ciroc, and, most recently,
Bob Dylan’s whiske y, Heaven’s Door (announced in April 2018).
Celebrity Licensing
the number declining to 68 in 2015.3 is chapter will focus
on product categories, such as the apparel and home categories,
where celebrity licensing serves as a petri dish of what does and
doesn’t work and why.4
What Makes a Celebrity a Brand?
Celebrities like to talk about their “brand.” Yet few are brands. Is
Tom Hanks a brand? Is Meryl Streep a brand? Both are great actors.
Both are very prolic in thei r work and represent a diversity of roles.
But are they brands like Oreo cookies is a brand? How would you
describe the Tom Hanks brand? e Meryl Streep brand?
You can’t describe them because they are not brands. ey
are celebrities. ey are actors. ey are artists. But they are not
brands. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t become brands. Con-
sider Kathy Ireland and Jaclyn Smith. And what about Paul New-
man in the food category? Each has parlayed his or her origina l
celebrity fame into a recognizable, comprehensive line of products
with market staying power. And therein lies the key learnings for
any brand seeking to use licensing successf ully.
Kathy Ireland
Kathy Ireland was a Sports Illustrated swimsuit supermodel,
appearing on three covers as well as being featured in the maga-
zine’s swimsuit issues for 13 consecutive years in the 1980s and
1990s. When her modeling career started slowing down, she
launched her company in 1993. Departing from the obvious—a
line of swimsuits—she began with socks (she got approached to
endorse a line of socks, and instead, the manufact urer was per-
suaded to take a license using her name). Perhaps a bit ahead of her
3. “Trends in Celebrit y Fragrance Launches Glob ally from 2013 to 2015,” Statista: e
Statistics Portal, undated.
4. ere has also b een a recent trend of celebrity lic ensed magazines (of course, M artha
Stewart and O prah Winfrey have h ad magazine tit les for some time), including Gw yneth
Paltrow’s Goop magazine (Condé Na st), blogger Ree Drummond’s e Pioneer Woman
Magazine (Hearst), and HGT V stars Joanna and Chip G aineses’ e Magnolia Journal

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