Rihanna Is a PR Genius
Published on February 28, 2023, at 9:07 a.m.
by Helen Carson.
Arguably one of the most popular Sundays of the year, the 2023 Super Bowl took place during a Rihanna concert on Feb. 12. Always a highly anticipated halftime show, this year’s event was just as special with 112 million viewers tuning into the halftime show to watch Rihanna perform.
Super Bowl performers are not paid as much as you would think, so monetizing on her songs and makeup brand helped Rihanna gain some capital from her performance.
A pregnancy announcement and some shameless self-promotion took place during the 13-minute set, leaving the audience, whether a fan or not, shocked. All of these events led to one realization: Rihanna is a public relations mastermind.
Prior to this year’s Super Bowl, Rihanna had taken some time away from the entertainment spotlight. Having not released an album since “Anti” in 2016, fans were excited to see her take the stage for the first time in a long time and were eager to see the show as Rihanna had not performed since the Grammys in 2018.
The launch of her Fenty Beauty brand, Fenty x Savage fashion line and a musical collaboration for the opening single of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” have been a few of the things keeping the popstar busy over her hiatus.
In a pregame interview, Rihanna teased about having a special guest perform with her. This left fans guessing if an artist she had previously collaborated with, like Kanye West or Calvin Harris, would surprise the audience for a song or two. Far from it — said special guest was, in fact, her soon-to-be second child.
Leaving out some of her top hits was also a strategic element to Rihanna’s performance. What did fans do as soon as they didn’t hear their token song? Listen to it on their own time immediately following the performance. Rihanna also teased at her popular songs, such as “Birthday Cake,” “S&M” and “Numb.”
Songs such as “All of the Lights” and “Diamonds” were played during the setlist, causing fans to think the special guest might be Kanye West. Yet, Rihanna performed alone despite a setlist and costume that was eerily similar to previous Kanye performances. West has been under a lot of publicly scrutiny, and has led me to wonder if his public relations offenses booted him from his Super Bowl spotlight.
Halfway through her set, Rihanna stopped and checked her makeup, using her highly sought-after Fenty Beauty oil-blotting product. Again, what did audience members like me do? Look up the product and scroll through the numerous things Fenty has to offer. And if we’re being totally honest, I bought the product. Fenty Beauty sales rose 833 percent, making it the 4th most researched topic the evening of the Super Bowl.
Fenty Beauty has been a popular brand since its creation in 2017. Known mainly for its inclusivity, Fenty carries 50 different shades of foundation. Rihanna preaches for users to play with their makeup and use it as a form of self-expression, just like she does.
But what really got the public rumbling was the perfectly accentuated baby bump featured as soon as the performance began. A ground-breaking entrance along with one of her most popular songs, Rihanna’s opening was captivating from her bright red outfit to the newly showing baby bump.
Fans took to Twitter and debated the bump, which was already skyrocketing Rihanna to be a trending topic completely aside from her performance.
Collaborating on a soundtrack for a top box-office film and creating her own beauty line and fashion collection have been a few examples of the way Rihanna has expanded her personal brand, aside from her own music, over the recent years.
Promoting her brand during the Super Bowl halftime show was minor work for a professional like Rihanna. Rihanna created a stronger public relations campaign for herself in 13 minutes than most professionals could in their entire career.