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Over the last two years as investment in the Creator Economy has increased, some fascinating brand-creator partnerships have come to life. This first wave of digital experiences is already showing the explosive potential of the Creator Economy. 

From what we’ve seen so far, it’s clear that brands need to be taking advantage of the opportunities the new platforms and technologies offer. 

So what are they?

There are blue sky brand-building opportunities in places like the Metaverse (where brands can build entire, original virtual experiences) and in collaborating with high profile creators with existing, engaged followings. 

There are also opportunities for brands to create original digital collectibles (like NFTs) their customers may find intriguing and valuable. And they can create their own crypto tokens (building off of existing crypto architecture) that can make their entire brand experience more sticky – and compelling – for consumers.

Brands may also be interested in expanding their marketing capacity with external creative resources without paying for the overhead of large creative agencies. The democratization of digital marketing and branding content the Creator Economy will enable will put further pressure on agency spending. When do you cut out the middleman? (This will be a broader theme of everything Web3 touches).

There’s also a need for brands to play defense here. Many brands are making marketing and brand investments in the Creator Economy. In the past, some brands moved too slowly to account for the rise of the internet and then social media. And that cost them. Building out a strategy or at least doing due diligence on the opportunities in the Creator Economy is critical. In fact, this is one of our core offerings at IOVIA – helping brands navigate this emerging economy. 

In this article, we’ll look at some of the Creator Economy projects that are already in flight and explore the ways that brands are co-creating sustainable partnerships with creators. We hope it gives you some inspiration about what’s possible in this space.

1. Creator Economy B2B partnership: Stella Artois + Zed Run

A lot of the excitement around the Creator Economy is tied to Web3 technologies like Blockchain and NFTs. Here’s a good example of how a brand, Stella Artois, was able to partner with a popular virtual horse racing platform, Zed Run and take advantage of the fun potential of these new technologies. 

The Zed Run platform enables users to buy, sell and breed digital racehorses and then enter them into races where significant money can be won. 

As part of its partnership with Zed Run, Stella Artois created a unique series of horse breeds for the Zed Run platform for auction, as well as a 3-D racetrack.

This may seem like a huge leap for the beer brand but it’s really just an extension of the partnerships they’ve previously built. In the past, Stella Artois has been a regular sponsor of horse racing events and organizations like Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby.

In the future, we’ll continue to see brands looking to extend their analog ‘real world’ interests in the virtual environments of the Creator Economy. In fact that’s a good place for brands to start their explorations into the Creator Economy – what marketing opportunities and partnerships are they pursuing in the real world that might also have virtual analogs? And if none exist, should they look for a partner to create them?

2. Creator Economy festival: IKEA + a whole bunch of creators

In 2021, IKEA ran its first ever IKEA Festival where the company partnered with artists, designers, DJ’s, chefs, and other creators to showcase their creativity and how they live life at home. 

From the IKEA press release:

“This is a new kind of festival, set in everyday homes, studios, and neighbourhoods worldwide, turning living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and backyards into virtual stages for performances and experiences. All in all, the IKEA Festival will take place in over 100 homes in more than 50 markets across the world, and the experience is for free, open to everyone.”

The festival was also delivered virtually with a diverse roster of creators partnering with IKEA’s own team to deliver a rich, festival programme filled with cooking demonstrations, musical performances, slices of life at home and other art installations.

IKEA put on a second IKEA Festival this past June at BASE in Milan for Milan Design Week 2022, which featured live events created by members of the IKEA team as well as evening musical experiences with a variety of international artists.

The IKEA Festival series is a fascinating and endless malleable platform for IKEA to showcase everything from its products to its vision on sustainability in a blended partnership with artists and other creators around the world. It’s virtual. It’s analog. It’s both.

And, of course, an annual festival means IKEA doesn’t need to make long term commitments to any single creator or approach to creating an event. They can try things, iterate and adjust. This spirit of experimentation is going to be core to brands that win in the Creator Economy.

It’s entirely possible that another ambitious brand might look to do the same thing (after all – the world has room for a LOT of festivals) – blending physical and virtual experiences with creative partners in order to reach new, often younger, more diverse audiences and build new brand value.

3. Creator Economy social impact partnership: Häagen-Dazs + Lena Waithe 

Häagen-Dazs has partnered with Lena Waithe (actress, writer, showrunner) as part of a joint commitment to elevate a new generation of diverse creators. The initial partnership’s investment totals $1.5 million over 3 years. The first investment in the series went to Hillman Grad Productions Lab, which ‘provides opportunities for marginalized storytellers to connect, grow, and accelerate their careers in television’. As part of the program Waithe will help Häagen-Dazs locate additional partners for the program. 

This is a good example of a Creator Economy trend we’re seeing, where true partnerships between brands and creators are built around the brand providing opportunities for creative skill development for up and coming and/or marginalized creators. 

It’s also an organic overlap of values. 

Häagen-Dazs was founded by Polish immigrants with an original mission focused on bringing an upscale product (ice cream) to marginalized populations that couldn’t traditionally afford it. And Waithe was already lifting up marginalized voices in her community before Häagen-Dazs approached her. Why not partner up?

Because so many creators are driven or inspired by social impact and justice movements, brands may want to consider how to build organic partnerships around those interests, just as Häagen-Dazs did with Waithe.

4. Creator Economy Fashion Week: Decentraland, Metaverse + a bunch of fashion brands

Stay with us. There’s a lot to process here.

Decentraland is a blockchain-based environment where users can buy virtual real estate (NFTs) in a shared virtual world. Users are joint owners of the environment. 

Unlike IKEA which created a new platform with the IKEA Festival, Decentraland already had a platform it wanted to deepen as part of Fashion Week.

Decentraland recently sponsored a four-day Metaverse Fashion Week in its environment that drew in major brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Dolce & Gabbana and Estée Lauder, amongst many others. 

The brands were then able to showcase their digital wearables for users in the Metaverse, with an expectation that some of the digital fashions would eventually be produced both as NFTs and as physical clothing. Decentraland made it feasible and fun for them to go from an analog to virtual experience. The brands win. And Decentraland wins.

The pedigree of the brands attending Metaverse Fashion Week shows how quickly adoption of the Creator Economy is happening at the brand level. It’s reasonable to assume that brands in certain industries (like fashion) will not be able to stay on the sidelines for long unless they get left behind by their competitors.

5. Creator Economy-inspired influencer marketing: Converse + Anthony Po

This is a bit more of a traditional influencer-brand relationship but it’s a fun one and it’s clearly inspired by a true creative partnership between a brand and creator, another signature theme of the emerging Creator Economy. This is not a command and control relationship like a lot of brand partnerships we’ve seen in the Web 2.0 world.

Youtuber Anthony Po has 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube and 147,000 followers on Instagram. His content includes a lot of parody and satirical videos (so in fact he does fit the label of ‘Creator’ as we define it). It’s also why his partnership with Converse feels so authentic and tied as much to his brand as that of the company. 

Here’s a good example of how he’s promoting the Converse brand, along with a charming sneak peek behind the curtain of their partnership:

This is just a tiny sampling of all the brand activity taking place across the Creator Economy. We’ll continue to share more in the weeks and months ahead. The growth in this space is happening rapidly.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the Creator Economy you can:

If you’d like to talk about how IOVIA can help you develop a strategy or project in the Creator Economy, get in touch to schedule an initial discussion.