During next year’s Super Bowl halftime show, don’t be surprised to see Rihanna and her backup dancers dolled up in Dolled Up Lace Cheekys, Xssential Hoodies, Savage Not Sorry Unlined Lace Balconette Bras and other apparel pieces from the superstar’s Savage x Fenty lingerie and clothing line. “I’d be stunned if she doesn’t wear her own brand during the performance,” says Nathan Hanks, founder and CEO of Music Audience Exchange, or MAX, which links artists with brands. “Maybe [A$AP Rocky, her partner] makes a guest appearance in Fenty boxers.”
Rihanna, an entrepreneur whose fashion brand earned a $3 billion valuation for a potential public listing earlier this year, has the chance to showcase her products in a way no other halftime star has ever done. J. Balvin wore his neon-rainbow Nike sneakers during his 2020 performance with Jennifer Lopez, and Travis Scott and Maroon 5‘s Adam Levine did the same with Scott’s Air Jordan models the year prior — but none of these pop stars comes close to matching Rihanna’s brand power, which contributes to her reported net worth of $1.7 billion.
“She’s going to be the most talked-about person in January-February next year,” says Brian Feit, founding partner of BMF, another branding group that works with music stars. “Her entire camp is probably mobilizing to be like, ‘How can we take advantage of this?'”
Dressing performers in Savage x Fenty products, as well as displaying her makeup line, which generated more than $550 million in the first year after its 2017 launch, is probably the minimum for Rihanna’s halftime show, Feit says. During the Super Bowl run-up, she might launch pop-up retail stores throughout the U.S., debut limited-edition lines of, say, male boxer shorts targeted to NFL viewers, and pay social-media makeup influencers to talk up her products. “And, obviously, everybody’s waiting for new music to drop,” he adds. “There’s a big opportunity.”
Rihanna declined an offer to headline the 2019 halftime show, declaring support for Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who became a political flashpoint for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. That same year, the singer’s longtime management company, Jay-Z‘s Roc Nation, partnered with the NFL on halftime-show strategy. And now, for next year’s show, Apple Music replaces Pepsi as corporate sponsor — which Hanks sees as a more malleable sponsor with the ability to cross-market Rihanna’s products on its homepage and take chances on unusual marketing ideas. “With Apple, the boundaries might be a little bit bigger than for Pepsi,” he says.
In recent years, Super Bowl performers have expanded beyond the halftime show itself to commercials and other events to draw attention to their music. Jennifer Lopez, for example, debuted a Netflix documentary, Halftime, in June, about her 2020 performance. Dr. Dre and fellow performers Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Mary J. Blige starred in a heist-movie-style commercial that was released last January hyping their upcoming performance. And while the advertisement didn’t advertise a particular brand, other than the stars’ longevity, “[Dre] used that moment to solidify himself as one of the true icons of hip-hop,” says Matt Ferrigno, co-founder of MTW Agency. “Maybe it worked less for him short-term, but long-term no one’s going to question his legacy.”
Rihanna, Ferrigno says, is likely to take advantage of the long-term opportunity in a more direct way to draw attention to her products. “Her team is looking at this moment big,” he says. “The moment of the Super Bowl is so much longer than that one performance. I could imagine them using that [to] show what goes into the wardrobe and the makeup with her own brands.” Adds Keith Gelman, a former Live Nation executive who founded Talent Partnership Advisors: “There’s a six-month runway for a brand to leverage and tell their story and build momentum.”
This year’s Super Bowl drew an audience of more than 112 million, including 101 million for the TV broadcast and another 11 million via streaming. It’s valuable broadcast real estate, as a 30-second Super Bowl ad cost $7 million this year, so a 12-minute halftime performance is theoretically worth $168 million. Which is a sizable, lucrative audience to watch a superstar announce, say, a long-awaited new album, or a similarly significant project. “It’s a marketer’s dream,” says Marcie Allen, Nashville-based president of music-experiential agency MAC Presents. “There’s no way there’s not going to be some sort of announcement on the heels of her halftime performance. She’s an entrepreneur, a businesswoman, a marketer. She’s extremely calculated and smart.”