Inside RS No.9: Hackney Diamonds is a 'huge milestone' for the Rolling Stones' global merch business

Inside RS No.9: Hackney Diamonds is a 'huge milestone' for the Rolling Stones' global merch business

Universal Music Group’s brand management company Bravado has been busy with the return of the Rolling Stones.

The Stones have already moved more than 50,000 physical copies of their much-anticipated new album Hackey Diamonds (Polydor). In Monday's Midweek sales flash, the band were heading for No.1 with 55,357 sales after the first three days on sale (50,390 physical, 3,588 downloads and 1,379 sales-equivalent streams). 

It means that Hackney Diamonds already has the fifth biggest opening sale of the year so far. The Stones are chasing big week one tallies including Lewis Capaldi’s Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent (95,882), Ed Sheeran’s Subtract (76,263), Taylor Swift’s Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) (67,112) and fellow Polydor act Olivia Rodrigo’s Guts (60,272).

Of course, recorded music is complemented by a significant merchandise business for the Stones, including e-commerce bundle offers that will have contributed to those substantial chart sales. 

The band also have their own RS No. 9 store in London’s Carnaby Street. For Hackney Diamonds, pop-up stores have been launched in New York, LA and Tokyo, with additional campaign retail activity in the US, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Bravado has worked on merch drops featuring the Stones’ Tongue & Lips logo, including a partnership with KidSuper, the creative collection founded by artist and designer Colm Dillane. As well as limited edition CD and cassette releases, the collaboration also extends to a range of premium merchandise items including t-shirts, hoodies, headwear and accessories.

“We're very fortunate that they're a band with one of the most iconic logos in the world,” said Orla Lee-Fisher, Universal Music Group’s EVP of strategic marketing. “[It’s a logo] that resonates and that you can have a lot of fun with. We have the glass [shards] tongue to go with the Hackney Diamonds artwork, it's very versatile. That's really helpful for all our campaigns, as it always has been, and it really doesn't get old. There are lots of ways we can do things that just keep it really fresh and iconic.”

Bravado worked closely with Polydor and Spotify on the huge partnership with Spotify and FC Barcelona, which was announced last week. The team at Bravado oversaw the development of the Rolling Stones x FC Barcelona merchandise range and retro shirt, which are available from the club store.

The limited edition lifestyle collection includes T-shirts, hoodies, bomber jackets, bucket hats and more featuring the Stones logo alongside the football club’s badge and Spotify logo. The creative for the collection was shot at Electric Lady Studios in New York, where songs from Hackney Diamonds were recorded.

“The Spotify-Barcelona partnership is about exposing the Stones and their iconic branding to a billion people,” Ali Tant, Polydor’s head of marketing, told Music Week.

Here, David Boyne, managing director of Bravado, takes us inside RS No. 9 and the Stones’ merch campaign targeting new fans…

Merchandise has been a key feature of the Stones' business. How has Hackney Diamonds as a concept lent itself to new products?

“The way we have closely worked with the team at Polydor has been a major factor in making the Hackney Diamonds merchandise collection a success. We know how important merch is to Stones fans around the world, and we have worked hard with Polydor to be completely integrated and deliver products that celebrate this huge milestone in the music industry, maintain the Stones’ iconic rock & roll identity, and create deeper connections with fans.” 

What are your expectations for RS No. 9 in Q4 with the new album? Is this one of the biggest global merchandise campaigns for Bravado of recent times?

“The Hackney Diamonds campaign is definitely one of our biggest projects for a long time with the new studio album marking the first original material since the Stones’ A Bigger Bang album back in 2005. We believe the new collections will help further amplify excitement around the new album, and drive buzz for both the RS No. 9 Carnaby flagship and online stores.”

How has the Carnaby Street store performed since launch, what are the key products? 

“The performance has been very strong, despite the challenges of opening a flagship store during a global pandemic. We have always maintained a premium feel to the RS No. 9 Carnaby store, even down to the Bowers & Wilkins sound system that creates an immersive audio experience for shoppers. We continue to sell an extensive range of fashion and lifestyle products, from leather jackets, t-shirts and luggage, to limited-edition prints by Ronnie Wood and John Pasche, and exclusive red vinyl editions of iconic Stones albums.

“We’ve had great success in collaborating with a diverse mix of artists and brands, including the likes of MTV, Tommy Hilfiger, Kirk Originals, Skechers, The Great Frog and Stutterheim. We've been able to deliver a great line-up of merchandise projects from the flagship store, offering a physical retail environment for brand activations and press events on one of London’s most popular high streets. This is a strategy we’ll continue to lean into over the coming years as we grow the RS9 brand.”

Does RS No. 9 Carnaby reach a young audience in addition to the traditional fanbase? How do you market to younger fans?

“The RS No. 9 store naturally attracts the traditional Rolling Stones fanbase that has shown consistent engagement. This core audience comprises rock & roll enthusiasts, band collectors and nostalgic boomers. Beyond the traditional Rolling Stones core audience, the launch of the RS No.9 Instagram channel and our apparel collections inspired by streetwear and festival fashion has been instrumental in attracting younger audiences. 

“Since launching RS No. 9’s Instagram channel three years ago, we have integrated marketing strategies that resonate with each audience segment, including influencer marketing programmes, content creation and brand collaborations. We have managed to build and nurture an engaged community that spans generations, ensuring that the Stones’ legacy captivates old and new fans.”

How significant will the album be as a gifting season item at the Carnaby Street RS No. 9 store? Are all sales chart eligible – how important will it be in terms of week one and Q4 in general?

“There has been an incredible reaction to the new studio album following the press conference hosted by Jimmy Fallon and the release of the first single Angry last month. All in-store music sales are chart eligible, including our limited edition RS No. 9 red vinyl. We’re also working to expand the RS9 brand into new markets, with a series of pop-ups planned across the US as well as a semi-permanent physical store in Tokyo’s cult shopping district, the suitably-named RS No.9 Harajuku.

“The opening of additional RS9 storefronts marks a huge milestone for Bravado and the Rolling Stones, allowing us to reach new audiences, deliver elevated merch programmes in new territories, and ultimately drive sales of Hackney Diamonds globally during the ever-important week one sales window.”



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