For the first time in almost 30 years, a celebrity can say that their name is on the McDonald’s menu. On Sept. 8, 2020, 28-year-old hip-hop artist and music producer Travis Scott began a collaboration with the fast food franchise, launching McDonald’s x Travis employee uniforms, clothing merchandise and a “Travis Scott Meal.” The menu item consists of a quarter pounder with onions, pickles, bacon, lettuce, melted cheese, mustard and ketchup, which will be available until Oct. 4, 2020. This is Scott’s first partnership that is inexpensive enough for all his fans to access, and proves that he is the king of collaborations.
McDonald’s’ last celebrity partnership entailed a deal that was far smaller in scope, albeit it was inspired by none other than NBA legend, Michael Jordan. The 1992 “McJordan” combo was available at select McDonald’s establishments in Chicago for only a short period of time. Twenty-eight years later, the same exact sandwich has reappeared with the name “Travis Scott” and is priced at $6 selling nation-wide. The hip-hop singer has conveyed the message that his brand is accessible in price and that he’s big enough to have a meal named after him.
Scott’s fans, though, have always been as ardent as Jordan’s. Scott’s shows were known for causing a frenzy even before he had established himself as a heavy-hitter on the scene. His set at 2015’s Lollapalooza and 2017’s Arkansas shows were classified by security as literal riots. Is rioting what brands want in their stores? Probably not, but companies aspire to have a dedicated customer base and Travis’ fan loyalty makes him an ideal brand partner. McDonald’s employees have now been trained on Travis Scott lingo and music, especially those that have been associated with TikTok trends of customers playing “Sicko Mode” or asking for Cactus Jack, his nickname. It is also Travis Scott’s connection to streetwear culture and the resale market that draws a completely separate — although sometimes overlapping — market to McDonald’s.
The music world is no stranger to marketing an artist through large-scale collaborations. Pharrell Williams partnered with Adidas, Drake worked with Nike for the Air Jordan 12 OVO, and, maybe most famously, Kanye West worked with Adidas for Yeezy. While these collaborations are almost a sign of “making it,” of being large enough to work with established brands, many prices rise as certain items are limited-edition and later resold. The average fan cannot afford shoes worth $1,000, or even a t-shirt for $150. When an artist’s collaboration becomes inaccessible to their own fans, they lose sight of who their listeners even are.
Yet, few have succeeded in capitalizing on their pop culture appeal like Travis Scott and his fans have remained devoted. The artist has pumped out clothing collaborations with exclusive designers and agents consistently since 2014. This includes work with Hot Wheels, Nerf, Fortnite and more. Scott’s Nike Air Jordans and limited edition Yves Saint Laurent vinyl records are best representative of how high-end and high-priced his products typically are. Even his first food partnership with Reese’s Puffs entailed cereal boxes at a price point of $50 that were sold out in under a minute. Now, Scott is finding that, arguably, his largest collaboration yet, is his most accessible.
There is no denying that the teaming up of McDonald’s with Travis Scott will benefit both parties. The chain will build its cool factor by tapping into the hip-hop market, while the artist himself will reap the benefits of an affordable brand. Travis Scott may not need more fans, but if he was looking for a cheat sheet, a $6 meal is a good way to go. While the resale market has reaped its benefits on McDonald’s posters and attempting to ship the meal itself, the product itself is one made for the 10-year-old fan, as much as it is for the 70-year-old grandfather who does not know what he’s ordering. Once an artist is as big as Scott, the music is not what is being promoted: it is his image. One can hope that Scott’s recent venture will bring artists to make their partnerships more accessible, because their fans deserve it.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, September 21 e-print edition. Email Anastasia D. S. Johnson at [email protected]