A Look Back At Travis Scott’s Most Questionable Brand Collabs Of 2020
From bobbleheads and Hot Wheels to *that* Maccas meal.
He might not have released a blockbuster album this year like 2018’s ASTROWORLD, but Houston Travis Scott managed to grab headlines every other day through 2020. Sometimes it was warranted, like a slew of #1 singles, but more often it was for his increasingly wild brand collaborations.
Travis isn’t a stranger to these collabs — he’s previously partnered with clothing brands Saint Laurent and Bape, and worked extensively with Louis Vuitton’s Virgil Abloh. They were crucial steps for the development of Travis Scott and Cactus Jack (his own label) as premier brands beyond the scope of hip-hop.
And so, he entered 2020 with a vision of progressing his brand even further, and with that came a flurry of new (and old) brand collabs — some of them predictable, some of them more questionable, and some of them just flat out…weird.
#7. Hot Wheels
Travis’ first collaboration of 2020 is perhaps his most generic one. Bringing the custom-made BMW M3 E30 found on his label’s JACKBOYS album cover to life as a limited-edition collectable. Giving five of them away for free is a great way to garner short-term fan interactions but other than that, there wasn’t much of a lasting impact for both Travis or Hot Wheels.
But the lack of any connective tissue between brands made the collab feel shallow. Like Travis’ bizarre Reese’s Puffs cereal box, it’s a gimmick with his name slapped on it that only appeals to the most devoted of Travis Scott fans.
Speaking of dedicated Travis fans, I can’t see anyone who would unironically purchase these unless they’re in it for the YouTube unboxing videos.
After his Fortnite concert (more on this later), he dropped a real-life version of the game’s Goosebumps-skin equipped AR-L weapon. It’s basically a reskin of an existing product that Nerf had already put out with Fortnite, so this product is essentially a cash-grab to the highest degree.
#5. Houston Rockets
Travis Scott’s not alone in showing love for his beloved hometown basketball team. Once a ball boy for the team in high school, Travis has gone on to design custom jerseys for the Rockets on multiple occasions over the years.
This year, they took their partnership a step further with the first-ever Bobblehead Night where Travis gave away 3000 custom-made bobbleheads of himself in a Rockets jersey. As expected, La Flame fans came out in full force, with some of them waiting up to five hours just to get their hands on one.
Brand collaborations are usually formed due to shared interests — like Pharrell and A$AP Rocky’s passion for fashion, leading to deals with BAPE & GUESS respectively; or Post Malone’s outspoken love for Bud Light.
Similarly, Travis’ well-documented history as a sneakerhead and his deep appreciation for the culture led to an eventual deal with Nike in 2017. Over the years, he’s been given access to redesign some of the most iconic shoes in Nike’s history — Air Force 1, Jordan 6 and even this year’s SB Dunk Low drop.
As to why his shoes end up being hyped as they are, Stadium Goods’ chief marketing officer explained to GQ. “He often brings back older, hyped sneakers which helps educate new heads and remind the old heads.”
In terms of his brand collabs, this one is fairly straight down the line — very, ahem, on brand.
Given Travis’ video game-related shenanigans earlier this year, it’s no surprise that Sony would tap him as a ‘Strategic Creative Partner’ for PlayStation. The title is pretty much for show but hey, it’s a great marketing ploy. He’s reportedly going to bag about USD$20 million from the partnership, so that’s not too shabby.
It levelled up further with the unveiling of the, more than slightly ridiculous, the Travis Scott x PlayStation 5 x Nike Dunk Low collab. There’s now news that he could be designing a limited edition PS5 console and game.
Easily the most head-scratching deal Cactus Jack had scored all year. The Travis Scott Meal was a medium Sprite, a Quarter Pounder and fries with barbecue sauce; based on Travis’ go-to order since childhood — a set that you literally ordered anywhere in the world. Yet, the meals themselves sold so well that many chains ended up with a supply shortage.
It worked out so well for McDonald’s that the company’s health went from a “8.7 percent drop in the second quarter, at the height of virus lockdowns, to a 4.6 percent gain in the third”, as reported by Forbes.
Travis also had a host of merch to go along with the deal, including a life-size chicken nugget body pillow, once again proving how the Cactus Jack brand can make pretty much anything sell.
A return to in-person concerts still seems like a farfetched concept in many parts of the world, so artists have had no choice but to adapt and translate their live performances to a digital setting. Some have done it better than others, but none have been able to make as big of a splash as Travis Scott did when he burst into global phenomenon Fortnite’s servers as a 10-foot version of himself.
He’s not the first to hold a virtual concert in the video game, that honour goes to Marshmello. However instead of recreating a static festival-like setup, Travis made full use of the tools at his disposal. Throwing players around the map as they floated alongside his in-game avatar while performing some of his biggest hits, before debuting a new song with mentor Kid Cudi.
Since then video game concerts have been all the rage, like 100 Gecs in Minecraft or Lil Nas X with Roblox. Extravagance is the name of the game and Travis was the perfect artist to capitalise on this. It’s arguably the greatest ‘live’ digital performance yet — not a bad legacy.
Jensen Ooi is a freelance music journalist based in Melbourne and Malaysia, find him on Twitter at @jenericjensen.