When Unpaid Work Pays Off

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Super Bowl LVII was over 2 weeks ago, and people still haven’t quite gotten over Rihanna’s next-level halftime performance – particularly, all the marketing buzz she created, with a nicely wrapped-up pregnancy announcement. From skirting a multi-million dollar ad placement to winning the merch game with limited edition products to leveraging her personal brand to create the most impact, today we’re breaking down how Rihanna turned an unpaid performance into a masterclass in marketing. 

In recent years, the Super Bowl has evolved into more than just a sports event – it’s become a cultural phenomenon. Many are just as excited to watch mind-blowing Super Bowl ads as they are the game itself (if not more), not to mention the eager anticipation of the supercharged halftime show. 

But a not so known fact? The artists who perform the show don’t get paid for their performance. 

So, why do they do it? 

One word. Exposure. The Super Bowl is arguably one of the biggest stages in the world. This year, an estimated 113 million people tuned in to watch the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles tackle it out on the field, making it the third biggest show on TV in history.

It’s the kind of publicity you rarely get anywhere else. 

Artists usually see a bump in their sales after a Super Bowl performance. But Rihanna took it to the next level with multi-layer marketing woven into her performance. She not only promoted her music, but scored money-making touchdowns with her brands Savage X Fenty, Fenty Beauty, and her celebrity status as well with key product placement throughout the performance.

Here’s why it was genius. 

Social Relevance

Prior to her performance, Rihanna has pretty much laid low from the spotlight. And everyone thought they knew why. After all, she’s running a multi-billion dollar empire, launching new products, on top of being a new mom. In fact, prior to the Super Bowl, she hadn’t performed onstage in six years. And she made sure her return would be momentous in more ways than one. 

Dropping the bomb that she’s pregnant with baby no. 2 became one of the hottest celebrity news around. All the press surrounding her personal life helped shine the spotlight on her brand that’s become synonymous with her name, even more.

Riding On The Hype

Team Fenty hands down won in social listening by putting a creative twist on the ongoing joke that the Super Bowl just became the Fenty Bowl. Leading up to the big game, Savage X Fenty released a timely limited edition, “Game Day” athleisure collection with a fun play on the upcoming event, i.e. the oversized tee that said the Rihanna concert was “interrupted” by a football game. This allowed her to ride on the hype surrounding the event while staying true to her brand. 

Media Impact Value

Rihanna owned that platform, and she used it to her advantage. That evening, she made herself the face of Fenty with her football-themed “Game Day” beauty essentials, wearing a full face of her makeup line. But then she took it even further by incorporating a casual touch-up on stage – a moment that went totally viral. Why pay a $7 million placement for an ad spot during the game when she can put it in her show? 

If you’re still wondering what she got out of her unpaid performance… 

In just 12 hours post the show, RiRi racked up a total of $88.3 million in media impact value – the estimated value of media coverage that her marketing moves during her Super Bowl performance generated for the brands she represented. How’s that for a performance fee?

So, when does it make sense for the “average” entrepreneur to take on unpaid work to boost their business? 

When you need to gain experience

Think back to the early days of your career, which most likely included an internship. Whether still studying or fresh out of college, many of us probably did some unpaid internships to gain enough experience and get a foot in the door to landing the job we really wanted. In the same way, taking on an unpaid job could be your “in” to a new industry to help set you up as you build on your credentials. Don’t forget to ask for a review!

When you need exposure

If an unpaid gig allows you to showcase your expertise in such a way as to make meaningful connections, then, why not? Let’s say you’ve been invited to be a keynote speaker at a business event. This allows you to meet a wider group of people in a similar or related field who will know and could potentially become clients, business connections, or referral sources. 

When you’re looking for some personal growth as part of your entrepreneurial journey

Pursuing activities that promote personal growth can help you achieve a different kind of fulfillment and help you gain new learnings and perspectives. Take volunteering at a local organization for example. Not only does it allow you to actively participate in furthering ideals you are passionate about, but you also get to meet others with the same ideals as you. Impacting others positively can also leave a lasting impression on people and help you build an intangible legacy others won’t soon forget.

Closing Thoughts

It’s important to remember that business isn’t always a straightforward transaction. Sometimes, you have to play the long game. Weighing the effort vs. potential return on investment for your efforts could help you assess whether taking on certain unpaid jobs can be beneficial for your bottom line, in the long run.

March 2, 2023

Brit Morin