Sunday, 25 January 2015

What we can learn from Rihanna

Last week the singer Rihanna saw off an appeal by Top Shop against a decision of the High Court ordering the retailer to stop selling t-shirts reproducing her likeness in a way that suggested that she approved or endorsed Top Shop's products. If you want to understand the legal issues you can read my case notes in my law blog on the original decision in 2013 and the appeal.

"Very interesting" you may say "but what's it to do with ballet?" Well quite a lot actually because if more money is to come into dance and the other performing arts it will have to come from merchandising and endorsements. As I said in Ballet as a Brand? How to bring More Money into Dance for Companies and Dancers 13 March 2013 there is a limit to how much the long suffering British public will pay for the arts whether in the form of ticket prices or subsidies from the Arts Council.

Sports stars and performers in other art forms such as Rihanna have long known that there is a lot of money to be made from advertising, endorsement, merchandizing and sponsorship. As the Court of Appeal noted, Rihanna runs very large merchandizing and endorsement businesses. Over the years has had endorsement deaks with Nike, Gillette, Clinique and LG Mobile. She has also been very active in fashion in her own right and has made considerable efforts to associate herself in the public mind with that industry.

As I noted in my article last year:
"A few companies are already making a little extra money from advertising. The Royal Opera House shop offers a wide range of merchandise bearing the Royal Ballet name and crest such as books, calendars, greeting cards, t-shirts and videos. Other companies sell t-shirts. A website called Balletgifts, which appears to be based in New Cross. markets various items of clothing and other merchandise for the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky. Many companies hire out rooms in their studios or their orchestras. Most also have schemes by which businesses and individuals can become friends or patrons of a company or sponsor individual productions or dancers."
Also, a few dancers are also beginning to exploit their value as brands:
"A few superstars like Carlos Acosta and Darcey Bussell have websites through which they market branded merchandise. Acosta offersclothing and posters and advertises his book with links to Amazon and Waterstones. Bussell markets a range of children's dancewear, books and games and DVDs from her site."
However, much more can be done. You don't have to be the Royal Ballet or Carlos Acosta to make money from advertising, endorsements, merchandising and sponsorship. Every company - even quite small ones has its following - and it is not just ballerinas and premiers danseurs nobles who have fans. Look how I gush over Brill, Coracy, DePrince, Gillespie, Kundi and other favourite artistes as well as the principals of their companies.  And it's not just performers who have brands. So, too do studios, dance schools and even individual teachers.

I made some suggestions as to what companies, theatres, dancers and increasingly individual teachers can do to protect their goodwill in  Branding and Ballet - Ten Top Tips 13 June 2014. The Rihanna case is likely to be discussed at a seminar at St Pancras on the law relating to branding and fashion and luxury goods at which I shall be speaking on 10 Feb 2015. If you want to attend the seminar you can book on-line.

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