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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Taking Buffalo Brand Viral

Iconix Brand Group Inc. has engaged with the hip-hop duo as the first of its participants in its “Blank Check Series.”

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NEW YORK — Iconix Brand Group Inc., which sought to give Buffalo David Bitton an international boost when it acquired a 51 percent stake in the company eight months ago, is now looking to give the brand a viral lift.

Iconix has engaged hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as the first of its participants in its “Blank Check Series,” which will endow artists in various media to produce media content on behalf of the brand.

The first of the duo’s films, documenting an international tour already under way and scheduled to conclude in Seattle on Dec. 12, will be released Thursday and be available at the duo’s Web site at macklemore.com, the brand’s site at buffalojeans.com and on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

“The two of them have over two million Instagram followers,” said Dari Marder, chief marketing officer of Iconix. “This is a highly engaged audience. It’s not like there’s a lot of work needed to push this out.”

The duo’s sturdy hit “Thrift Shop” has been viewed 429.7 million times on YouTube.

They are expected to make a total of five films as part of the series.

Although not literally a blank check, Iconix has given Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and other artists who will participate in the program significant creative leeway to execute as they wish and, in the first iteration of the program, a budget large enough to fund a full video production crew of four in Europe and 10 in the U.S.

While still a small part of Buffalo’s undisclosed marketing budget, Marder said it didn’t come at the expense of other efforts. “We’re simply doing more of everything,” she said.

“Unlike some of our acquisitions, there was nothing really broken about this brand when we bought into it,” Marder said. “They have great products and distribution. We thought we needed to add something of a celebrity piece and we love attaching the brand to music, a natural for the predominantly 18-to-35 bracket the brand is after. This program is simply a matter of being where Buffalo’s customer is. You have to connect at every touch point.”

Recently, that matchmaking exercise included sponsorship of the Billboard Music Awards. As “Blank Check” proceeds, it will touch a variety of art forms and media channels. The second iteration of the program is expected to involve some kind of in-store installation. “We’re not ready to talk about the particulars yet, but it will be with a name in the fashion community, right in the fashion wheelhouse,” the cmo said. “We’re looking for ways of giving artists an opportunity to tell a story through the brand.”

The program is open-ended and might eventually include philanthropic programs as well.

Iconix in February paid $76.5 million for a 51 percent stake in Buffalo and formed a joint venture with Montreal-based Buffalo International ULC as its partner and core licensee. Neil Cole, Iconix’s chief executive officer, said the primary goal of the amalgamation would be international expansion. The brand, focused on North American distribution at the time of the purchase, is now available in 18 countries, including Ukraine and markets in the Balkans and Middle East.