Startups love star power. A celeb endorsement grabs attention and builds a brand fast. And if the deep-pocketed star wants to invest in your company or make a deal for a stake, it’s icing on the cake—the deeper the connection, the bigger the buzz and payoff. Here’s a roundup of recent celebrity and sports partnerships with Dallas-area startups and enterprise companies.
‘Schitt’s Creek’ stars and Capital One
“Schitt’s Creek” stars Eugene and Sarah Levy appeared in an ad campaign for Capital One Auto Navigator. The real-life father and daughter want you to know how easy it is to buy a car when you start with the Auto Navigator app, from the company’s Plano-based financial services division. “It was an easy decision to do an ad for Capital One Auto Navigator,” Eugene Levy said in a statement. “It’s one thing that could help make buying a car less stressful! And doing this ad with my daughter Sarah made the whole Capital One experience such a joy.”
Phil Mickelson and Mizzen+Main
Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship last month, making history as the oldest golfer ever to win a major. One of his secret weapons wasn’t in his bag: it was his partnership with Dallas-based performance menswear brand Mizzen+Main. In May 2018, Mickelson signed what ESPN called “the most innovative endorsement deal of his career“ by aligning with Mizzen+Main in exchange for an undisclosed equity stake in the company as well as cash. “I like to be a trendsetter,” Mickelson told ESPN, before teeing off in a long-sleeved Mizzen+Main performance dress shirt at the 2018 Players Championship, in a pairing with Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler. “I have two phrases etched in memory,” the company’s founder and board chairman Kevin Lavelle tweeted after Mickelson’s recent big win. “1) ‘No one will ever wear a performance dress shirt.’ 2) ‘Phil Mickelson isn’t in your demo. He can’t be helpful to Mizzen and Main. Wrong athlete.’”
Cristiano Ronaldo and Therabody
Portugal got knocked out of Euro 2020 yesterday, so soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo could probably use a massage. It’s a good thing he signed an endorsement deal this month with Therabody, makers of the handheld percussive therapy device Theragun. L.A.-based Therabody recently announced it will be siting its second headquarters in Downtown Dallas’ East Quarter. As the company’s newest Therabody Athlete, Ronaldo will star in the company’s biggest global ad campaign to date. “My body is my weapon,” he explained in a release. “To be the best, you need the best recovery. That’s why I choose Therabody.” Ronaldo will work with Therabody to raise awareness of whole-body wellness and convey the benefits of Theragun to the football community. (Not our football—the global one.)
Harmony Korine and 7-Eleven
Irving-based 7-11 rolled out a big, breakthrough campaign of TV commercials directed by actor and “Spring Breakers” filmmaker Harmony Korine, with plans to spend more than $70 million this year on it, according to the Wall Street Journal. The campaign, called “Take It to Eleven,” doesn’t star Korine—it’s infused with his signature, off-kilter filmmaking style, steeped in youth culture and edgy music choices, including songs by Marlowe, Selectric, and the Yip Yops. Skaters, rockabilly fans, low-riders, and a garage punk band all take a turn. Spots like this and this were born to go viral, appealing to Korine’s fans and spreading buzz where 7-Eleven hasn’t always gone before. It’s a bold campaign that shows what brands can do when they think out of the box—and partner with a celebrity who helps them explode right out of it.
Ashley Benson and Hempz
Dallas-based Hempz, a leader in hemp seed oil-infused products since 1998, announced its first-ever celebrity partnership this month with actress and influencer Ashley Benson. “I’m a longtime fan of the trailblazing company Hempz, and am excited to be partnering with them,” Benson said in a statement. “I always look for products that make a difference for my skin and hair while still being vegan and cruelty-free. Hempz checks all those boxes, plus the beauty and wellness benefits of hemp seed oil.” CMO Jennifer Weiderman said Ashley is the perfect partner for Hempz: “We wanted to align with an aspirational and approachable partner, and Ashley is everything that Hempz stands for: she’s authentic, down to earth, and shakes up the status quo.”
Tyler Herro and G.O.A.T. Fuel
Dallas-based G.O.A.T. Fuel, a health-focused energy drink developed by NFL Hall of Fame Jerry Rice, announced an exclusive partnership last month with rising Miami Heat star Tyler Herro. Drafted in 2019, the young NBA player has earned the nickname “Baby G.O.A.T.” from fans for feats like scoring 37 points in a playoff game, the most ever by a Heat rookie. “This kid is really special,” Rice said of Herro in a statement. “That look in his eye. A fearless tenacity. I loved watching him in the NBA Playoffs last year and I love his work ethic. I see a lot of intensity, drive and G.O.A.T. mentality in this young man and I’m happy to have him on board as an ambassador for G.O.A.T. Fuel.”
Listeners on Call and Donald Driver
Former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver holds the franchise’s all-time records for most career receptions and receiving yards. He was on the Packers team that won Super Bowl XLV over the Pittsburgh Steelers. In April he teamed up with Dallas-based Listeners on Call as the company’s chief impact officer. Together, Driver and the startup—whose app allows users to connect with trained “listeners” in a time of emotional need—will work to remove barriers that separate people from seeking peer support. Driver himself overcame a background of homelessness, family turmoil, and inner city hardship. “The journey that led me to where I am today taught me a lot and inspired me to want to give back and connect with others that are in need of a meaningful support system,” Driver said in a statement. The Listeners On Call platform gives people 24/7 access to peer support “by connecting them with someone who shares a related personal experience in a non-clinical, anonymous setting,” the company says.
Dear Giana and Nike
Sometimes big brands turn to Dallas personalities—even when they’re just 12 years old. Dear Giana, a young Filipina-Mexican American wunderkind with a standout streetwear style, has been dubbed a prodigy. Known as an artist, fashion icon, and inspiration to some 23.4K followers, she’s been named one of Vogue’s Global 100 “riveting creatives to watch.” Now Giana has partnered with Nike to promote its global Air Max Accelerator program, where she’ll turn ideas into actions that define the sneaker culture today. In Nike’s Air Max Accelerator episodes, Giana chronicles her influences and journey in creating her bright, bold piece, and says the best part about the program is “getting to meet the most influential and creative people that are changing the women’s sneaker game.”
Cowboys’ Zack Martin and Eight Sleep
It’s not a Dallas company, but he’s certainly a Dallas star—because he wears one on his helmet. Dallas Cowboys All-Pro guard Zack Martin was one of several athletes and celebrities who invested in Eight Sleep, a Miami-based startup that calls itself the world’s first “sleep fitness” company. Other celeb investors included actor Kevin Hart, MLB legend Alex Rodriguez, the Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant, the Boston Red Sox’ J.D. Martinez, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Matthew Deliavadova, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jason Zucker, the Florida Panthers’ Aaron Eckbald, and English soccer player Daniel Sturridge.
League and Team Endorsement Deals
Dallas Cowboys and HyperIce
The Dallas Cowboys made a new brand alliance in April with Irvine, California-based Hyperice, maker of handheld percussive massage devices and other recovery technologies. The multi-year partnership will optimize player performance and recovery during NFL games, practices, and down time, with a goal of extending player careers. Hyperice investors include Patrick Mahomes, J.J. Watt, Russell Westbrook, and more. “At the Dallas Cowboys, we’re always in search of cutting edge technology that helps our athletes recover quickly and efficiently to stay on the field,” Cowboys Head Athletic Trainer Jim Maurer said in a statement. “Hyperice accomplishes that goal with top quality products that show superior results that our players are excited to use this season and beyond.”
NHL and Shavelogic
NHL players make power plays on sharp blades, and the blades are sharp on Dallas-based razor startup Shavelogic’s products, too. So their partnership makes sense. It’s not a celeb deal, but it makes Shavelogic an Official NHL Partner in the U.S.—so Shavelogic gets a brand halo glow whenever NHL stars slam boards and rocket pucks. Announced last month, the deal is Shavelogic’s first partnership with a pro sports league, giving the startup an array of exclusive marketing rights. “At Shavelogic, we think the NHL and its fans share a similar bold persona, so working together is a natural fit,” said Rob Wilson, Shavelogic’s CEO, in a statement. The deal will connect Shavelogic’s SL5 razor with the NHL, its fans, players, and events through the NHL’s marketing, digital, and social media channels—and during marquee events like the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Quincy Preston contributed to this report.