It’s been more than 30 years since reggae superstar Bob Marley died of cancer, but the Jamaican musician continues to enjoy broad cultural resonance.
Marley’s songs and merchandise sales rank him alongside other late musical greats including the king of pop, Michael Jackson, and the king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley, according to Forbes magazine.
The sustained popularity of Marley -- who wore his hair long in the dreadlocks favored by the Rastafarians and espoused a life philosophy that the world could be united through “one love” -- has attracted new deals with Creative Artists Agency and giant music merchandising company Bravado.
“We believe these relationships will undoubtedly expand our father’s growing legacy to new levels,” said daughter Cedella Marley. “We will still be able to spread his music and universal message of peace and love through these new avenues.”
Bravado acquired the worldwide apparel rights for Bob Marley through an investment in the family’s apparel and accessories company, Zion Rootswear.
“In our world, one of the biggest properties out there -- one of the best sellers historically, over the last 10 years -- has been Bob Marley,” said Bravado Chief Executive Tom Bennett. “He’s got a lock on the reggae world. It’s a great lifestyle brand (and) it’s very attractive to kids at a certain age. It does well in beachwear and surf-wear. It ties into the whole culture.”
Bravado develops and markets licensed merchandise for other big-name artists, including the Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Paul McCartney and Jackson. It plans to create a full apparel line inspired by Marley, and market it through U.S. retailers such as H&M;, Hot Topic, Spencer Gifts, Wal-Mart Stores and Target, and throughout the rest of the world, Bennett said.
“Bob Marley really represents a whole lifestyle and attitude that’s very resonant with our customers,” said Spencer Gifts Chief Executive Steven Silverstein. “The imagery, the freedom of expression, one love, it’s all very current.”
In one indicator of the retail potential, Bennett said Bravado’s stake in Zion Rootswear is “one of our biggest investments ever.” Terms were not disclosed. Marley apparel sales in the U.S. alone exceed $100 million annually, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
CAA will assume management of the portfolio of Marley licensees, and will seek to create new opportunities in film, television, commercial endorsements, consumer licenses, digital media and games. The agency’s goal is to build a media platform from which to grow the brand.
“Going out there, especially with someone like Bob Marley where there’s so much cross-generational appeal and they have a global reach already.... That’s what’s so interesting,” said CAA’s Perry Wolfman, who oversees CAA’s licensing division.
As evidence of Marley’s continued cachet, Bruno Mars, Sting and Rihanna joined Marley’s sons Ziggy and Damian to pay tribute to the reggae artist in a performance during the 2013 Grammy Awards. Marley’s Facebook account has more than 42 million fans.