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Celebrity Licensing in A Pandemic

by: Jon Robinson | February 4, 2021

The Miley Cyrus Burrito with a Lady Gaga Cookie Chaser

For celebrities, one casualty of the pandemic is their influence. While they’re catching up on their R&R, another form of R&R—rights and royalties—has taken a huge hit. While most celebrities aren’t struggling by Middle America’s standards (since many have lifetime royalty checks), they are still challenged by the lack of live concerts, TV/film productions and awards ceremonies to keep them foremost in the public eye. Their influencer currency is drying up. And that impacts their wallets. But the wily ones have their trademark licensing attorneys on speed dial.

Thankfully for them, there’s still social media. A recent, random TikTok exchange between Miley Cyrus, her fans, and Chipotle triggered a new burrito: The Guac is extra but so is Miley. The vegan burrito now retails for $8.75. The jury is still out on her potential earnings from this culinary spontaneity.

Other celebrity brand extensions into food were more carefully contrived. Take for example, Lady Gaga’s Chromatica Oreo cookies, bright pink with green filling and vanilla flavored. These coincided with the launch of her dance pop album of the same name. She also collaborated with Oreo on a Sing it with Oreo campaign where her fans can send Oreograms, or personalized messages-turned-songs, to their loved ones.

This past summer, fans of rapper Travis Scott could buy The Travis Scott Burger at McDonald’s along with pricey gear like the co-branded $105 hoodie or the $50 t-shirt. TikTok star Charli D’Amelio collaborated with Dunkin’ on The Charli, her signature drink: Dunkin’s cold brew with whole milk and three pumps of caramel swirl. Tyler, the Creator collaborated with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams for two new flavors, Pluto Bleu (blood orange and blueberry mix) and Snowflake (mint and white chocolate ice cream flavor). More than 4,000 pints were sold on the first day of its launch.

And speaking of ice cream, Selena Gomez is now in the frozen confections business. In tandem with her K-Pop mega girl group single, Ice Cream with BLACKPINK, she launched an ice cream with the same name. Gomez’s pink vanilla ice cream is infused with cookie bites and fudge, via New York’s Serendipity Restaurant.

The question is, how many more food and beverage licensors will do deals with influencer marketing celebs?

And what might that look like in the future? Will the brand extension-hungry duo of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have their own line of fish and chips at Long John Silver’s? Will the NELK BOYS, social media influencers and YouTube personalities from Canada, crack one open with their own signature line of Corona beer? As the food and beverage industry marketers continues to dig out from the pandemic, celebrity influencers will be there to hand them the shovel.