I bet you didn’t know that LL Cool J Gave Fubu Their Big Break in 1999

A very controversial marketing tactic used in 1999 is quite known to anyone who follows or has been listening to hip hop for some time. But rarely do we ever examine the actual tactic that was used in 1999 to see just how big FUBU got because of LL Cool J.

If you aren’t familiar with FUBU, it’s a brand started by some guys in New York called “For Us By Us”. Essentially one of the first major successes in Urban clothing, and something kids all over North America started wearing, “repping”, in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

In 1999 LL was offered 30 million dollars to write, and recite a rap song for an upcoming GAP commercial. His only contingency was that he was able to wear one of his own hats, as at that time GAP didn’t have any hats and he needed to wear one to ensure his brand was represented properly.

So it happened. The verse was written and the commercial was shot. It aired all over North America and was a huge success for the GAP brand…. And FUBU.

LL, a NY native himself, wore a FUBU hat in that commercial.

He also “easter egged” one line in the verse he wrote that said “For Us By Us On the Low”.

Kids all over North America were heading to the GAP hoping to purchase the hat and other FUBU clothing, but finding the product line simply wasn’t available there… The conversion rate of those teenagers was still enough that GAP made a successful return off of the commercial. I guess some of those kids looking for FUBU took a liking to GAP clothes.

FUBU of course blew up, and every kid in North America knew who it was now. Their sales sky rocketed.

What can we learn from this that could be applied to modern day marketing? There is always a way to creatively think out of the box and do something amazing. While marketing budgets and campaign executions can sometimes feel “robotic” to ensure branding is on point, we can always be creative.

And, something else we learned is that LL Cool J is just a cool guy. He didn’t need to wear that hat in 1999. His career had already taken off, he was a millionaire. But he did it. Because he loves his culture and he loves where he is from. We can all learn a lesson from that.