Our Founder and Managing Director Charlotte Mair was asked to write the following article for The Marketing Society, an influential and progressive network of 3,000 senior marketeers across seven hubs, including London, Scotland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, India and New York.

If someone had said to me back in December this is what 2020 is going to look like, I would not have believed them! But as the world has seen, with all crisis comes creativity and opportunity. An area that has been unsurprising to watch succeed and equally fascinating to watch explode, has been the culture and hip-hop.

Now, I must confess, I am a great believer that hip-hop shapes everything. From fashion, to food, to sports, to entertainment, it plays a huge part in consumer behaviour and demand. No one drives hype quite like black Americans in hip-hop. In fact, before you carry on reading, if you are wearing trainers, think about where they come from and how they were marketed to you?

Many forget when talking about hip-hop, the principles it was born on. Emerging from gang culture and violence in the Bronx during the 1970s, it represented experiences many communities faced of racism, poverty, exclusion, neglect, and violence. The genre became the voice of the unheard and a driving force for social justice.

On 19th July 1986, the culture and its relationship with brands changed. Hip-hop icons Run DMC stood on stage at Madison Square Garden holding up an Adidas trainer shouting “My Adidas”.


Fast forward to 2020 and My Adidas is still at the heart of Adidas Originals, with brand ambassadors also including award-winning chart toppers – Pharrell and Stormzy, Jonah Hill and Pogba. The 1986 deal went on to heavily influence future endorsements with artists and brands. Many followed with Kanye West and Adidas that are reporting $1.3 billion in sales in 2019, Diddy and Cîroc, Dr Dre, and Apple. The culture and hip hop have gone to negotiate some of the biggest brand deals in history.

So, let us look at what hip hop and the culture birthed during a global pandemic.

First up Tory Lanez, a rapper and R&B singer took Instagram Lives to a new level in the first few weeks of lockdown. Quarantine Radio became an overnight success with 350,000 tuning in for sound clashes and *dance competitions*. He also welcomed a series of household names to join him, including Justin Bieber, Drake and The Weeknd. One of his shows got so ‘lively’, it resulted in Instagram cutting him off with an enforced ban. This only drove the hype further, with Lanez trending on Twitter for days and fans begging Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook to lift the ban.

Next up we’ve got Verzuz TV, bought to Instagram by two Grammy-award winning producers Swizz Beatz and Timbaland. They focused on artist battles live and hit a sweet spot with viewers looking to remember great times. They had 500,000 tuning in live for Teddy Riley VS Babyface, and a total viewership of 4 million.

Now this was huge because Instagram had to release a statement advising fans to login to the app via desktop. You knew they had a hit when Swizz Beatz posted that he couldn’t get into his own party.

Lastly, Travis Scott dropped new music for fans in the phenomenally successful game, Fortnite. Scott, alongside Epic Games amassed 12.3 million viewers from across the globe. Tech Crunch described it as an ‘astronomical event’. Firstly, traditionally an artist could never reach that many fans on one occasion and secondly, the type of atmosphere that was created for viewers. It could only happen in a virtual world, which will be even more prevalent in our ‘new normal’.

I’ll save what Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé did for ‘Only Fans’ with their remix of ‘Savage’, a TikTok favourite for another day. And let us not forget lockdown Netflix smash hit, The Last Dance and brand deals with Michael Jordan.

These have been significant moments for black culture and hip hop during lockdown, that will go on to shape new behaviours in marketing and brave brand deals.

There is a moment during The Office US, when one of the lead characters, Dwight Schrute says, ‘’I know how you build a business. You gotta’ get the black people to do it in order to get the white people to do it. Then you gotta’ get the black people to stop doing it’’.

I will leave that there.

3 years ago