The title of this article has nothing to do with Rihanna not getting paid and everything to do with leveraging the Super Bowl to tell the world about her beauty product lines and what is next for her. It’s all about publicity.
In 2019, Rihanna famously turned down the chance to headline the Super Bowl halftime show, tellingVogue she did so in support of former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was ousted from the NFL for kneeling in protest of systemic racism and police brutality. “I just couldn’t be a sellout,” the popstar said at the time, “I couldn’t be an enabler.”
Now, the singer-turned-beauty billionaire is set to take the stage as the Apple Music halftime act for Super Bowl LVII in front of an estimated 190 million viewers on Sunday. “I felt like it was now or never for me,” Rihanna said in an interview a few months ago. “The Super Bowl is one of the biggest stages in the world, it’s an entertainer’s dream to be on a stage like that.”
Rihanna’s return to music
The performance marks Rihanna’s return to music after more than six years away. In October, she released her first single since 2017—“Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, which earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. Not that the 34-year-old singer has been slacking off during her hiatus from music. In addition to giving birth to her first child in May, the 34-year-old has built Fenty Beauty—launched six years ago with luxury goods giant LVMH—into one of the most inclusive and successful cosmetics brands in the industry, worth an estimated $2.8 billion. In 2018, she also launched the lingerie brand Savage X Fenty, which was weighing a $3 billion IPO, following a $125 million funding round last year. Together the businesses make up the vast majority of Rihanna’s estimated $1.4 billion fortune.
Rihanna won’t be paid for her Super Bowl
So it’s a good thing she’s not hard pressed for cash, because Rihanna won’t be paid for her Super Bowl performance as is custom for halftime headliners.
While A-list performers including Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga don’t get paid, the show does offer huge publicity benefits from the exposure to a massive audience. This year, the number of viewers is expected to top 192 million. Call it the halftime show effect: When Lady Gaga took the stage in 2017, her album and song sales, for example, increased 1000%, Billboard reported, and Jennifer Lopez gained 2.3 million new followers across social media after she and Shakira headlined in 2020.
Last year’s performance featured West Coast hip-hop starring legends Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem and 50 Cent, each of whom saw a boost to their personal catalogs. In the week after the Super Bowl, Dr. Dre saw a 183% increase in album sales and a 105% bump in on-demand streams, according to data from Luminate. Blige’s album sales jumped 999% during that time, and Snoop Dogg’s rose 361, Luminate said. And the production itself continued to earn accolades long after the big game ended: it was nominated for five Emmy awards and won three, including the trophy for Best Live Variety Special, the first time ever a Super Bowl halftime show had won that honor.
Rihanna collaborates with Jay-Z
For Rihanna, who already has nearly 250 million followers on Twitter and Instagram, the Super Bowl performance is her chance to return to her music roots and reconnect with her audience after years away from the stage. (She did appear in her partner A$AP Rocky’s May 2022 music video). It’s also yet another collaboration with Jay-Z, whose Roc Nation entered into a long-term partnership with the NFL in 2019 as its Live Music Entertainment Strategists.
And like Super Bowl commercials, halftime shows don’t come cheap—productions can cost north of $10 million dollars. For The Weeknd’s 2021 halftime show, he spent $7 million of his own money to make sure it fit his vision, and a source close to Dr. Dre told Forbes that the rapper and producer also spent around $7 million on his show last year. Much as the previous longtime sponsor, Pepsi, had done in the past, the NFL and Apple Music are expected to foot the bill for Rihanna’s performance, an NFL spokesperson confirmed to Forbes.
A representative for Rihanna declined to confirm whether she is putting her own money into the performance. Roc Nation and Apple Music did not respond to Forbes’ requests for comment.
“I get involved with every aspect of anything that I do,” Rihanna said Thursday at a press conference ahead of the game. “Whether it’s the Super Bowl, whether it’s a makeup product, whether it’s Savage lingerie…I want to see the copy on the website. I want to name every lipstick that I make,” the CEO said. “If it flops or it flies, my name has to stand by that.”
Of course, Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty are also likely to score big from Sunday’s spectacle. The performance comes days before Valentine’s Day, a historically busy time for the lingerie industry. Both brands have launched limited edition “game day” lines, featuring football themed sweats, shirts reading, “Rihanna concert interrupted by a football game, weird but whatever,” lipsticks and even a ball-shaped makeup sponge.
“The Fenty highlighter is definitely helping today,” Rihanna joked at the press conference, taking a break from rehearsals. “Because I have yet to sleep.”
The true focus: Rihanna’s music
But the true focus of Sunday’s show is Rihanna’s music. “This show is gonna be a celebration of my catalog, the best way we can put it together,” she said ahead of the performance. “You’re trying to cram 17 years of work into 13 minutes.” It could be a sign of what’s to come next. The singer is rumored to be going on tour later this year, her first since 2016, something fans hope she’ll announce on Sunday.
Still, Rihanna fans may have to manage their expectations.
Super Bowl is one thing,” she said. “New music is another thing.”
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