Unlike his hip-hop brethren, some of whom have turned brand shilling into a second career, Eminem has largely been an endorsement holdout—until this past Sunday, that is.
The Detroit-based rapper picked this year’s Super Bowl as his coming-out-as-a-product-endorser party, starring in ads for PepsiCo’s Lipton Brisk tea and Chrysler. The two-minute Chrysler commercial, the longest spot to ever air during the big game, quickly became one of the most buzzed-about and often-cited favorites of the day.
Those commercials are just the beginning of Eminem’s relationship with the two marketers, kicking off partnerships between the artist and the brands that will span the rest of the year and maybe longer, said his Hollywood talent agency, ICM.
“Because he hasn’t done commercials before, the work had to feel very authentic to him,” said Carol Goll, head of global branded entertainment at ICM, who worked with the artist’s management on the deals. “And he had a lot to say about shaping those ads, which was also very important.”
Eminem, a multi-Grammy winner who’s sold 80 million records worldwide, gravitated to the campaigns because he was promised a measure of creative freedom that celebrity endorsers rarely have. He came up with the concept and script for the Lipton Brisk spot after the marketer showed him what he’d look like as a Claymation figure to warm him to the deal, said Marisol Tamaro, the brand’s senior marketing director.
Brisk had reintroduced Claymation in its ads over the past few months, with spots starring rock singer Ozzy Osbourne and tough-guy actor Danny Trejo.
Eminem’s idea for the “anti-ad,” from Mekanism, San Francisco, revolved around the fact that he doesn’t pitch products. In the much-bleeped spot, where Em is presumably just being himself, he decides he likes the drink and agrees to be the brand ambassador. The marketer intends to release a slightly longer version of the ad online, dubbed “Eminem’s Cut,” similar to a “director’s cut” of a movie, within the next few days.
“We think it goes beyond advertising and establishes more cultural relevance for us,” Tamaro said. “It’s meaningful for our millennial consumer and it shows Eminem’s great, irreverent sense of humor.”
The Chrysler commercial, which began as a discussion about licensing Eminem’s Oscar-winning single, Lose Yourself, broadened to include the musician/actor himself in the spot and a close collaboration with the marketer and ad agency Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore., on the content. It centers on pride in the downtrodden Detroit—with the new tagline, “Imported from Detroit”—and has a bootstrap, bounce-back-from-adversity message that’s works for the U.S. auto industry and the formerly troubled artist.
Both commercials have opened the door for brand/artist co-promotions going forward. Lipton Brisk plans to sponsor Eminem’s tour this year and will support his Shady Records emerging artist initiative. That could include distributing music, videos and other entertainment content through its wide retail and digital network and hosting live events with Eminem’s hand-picked performers. Details are still coming together, but there are plans for the singer to continue a business relationship with Chrysler.
It’s no mystery why any number of brands would be interested in Eminem. He’s nominated for 10 Grammys at the annual awards show airing this Sunday, and his Recovery was the top-selling record of last year (3.42 million copies). He has 27 million Facebook fans and 3 million Twitter followers, the kind of loyal and engaged consumers that marketers salivate over.
For his part, Eminem took home a reported $1 million-plus for the Lipton ad (there is no word on his Chrysler payday). Ongoing support, whether it’s tour backing, additional media or special events, would only add to his bottom line.
ICM said such deals are becoming more common because marketers and artists want more than a one-hit wonder—they’re more likely to see a bigger return on both sides with a steady partnership that fans out over time. The talent agency landed a similar Super Bowl ad-pegged deal last year with Beyonce and Vizio. The relationship started with a splashy big game ad and then ran the rest of the year with more commercials and promotional activity.