Misty Copeland is making ballet so mainstream she’s about to have a Barbie doll in her likeness.
The tie-up with Barbie — part of Barbie’s “Sheroes” program spotlighting women breaking boundaries — is the latest in a string of marketing deals she has struck with big brands like Dr. Pepper and Under Armour. Her inspirational story of overcoming numerous family, professional and health struggles has also been captured in a children’s book, a memoir as well as a documentary. Last year, she was also named as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.
“She’s overcome incredible odds and been a trailblazer not only in ballet but also society,” said Megan Hartman, strategy director at Red Peak Branding. “She is an ideal role model for brands in that she represents so many aspirational traits — strength, power, grace, determination and integrity. You couldn’t handpick better traits for a spokesperson if you tried.”
Here’s why Copeland is striking a chord among more and more brands:
She breaks conventions
Everybody loves an underdog. Being one of six children in a single-parent household who didn’t start dancing until the age of 13, Copeland was an underdog in every sense. On top of the late start, Copeland was a black girl in a lily-white field. Her short, curvy and muscular physique were atypical of dancers.
“Her power lies in her ability to innately be empathetic with others’ struggles and desire to succeed believing no challenge is insurmountable,” said Aaron Kwittken, global chairman and CEO of Kwittken. “She’s 100 percent real.”
Many wouldn’t consider ballet a sport, but Copeland exemplifies the broader definition of sports that brands like Under Armour are embracing. In the “I Will What I Want” campaign, Under Armour juxtaposed Copeland with a phoenix rising from the ashes — not letting a rejection letter discourage her, focusing on her strength and substance. Barbie, too, is looking to tap into her positivity and perseverance.
“We look to celebrate women who really embody the spirit of the brand,” said Michelle Chidoni, senior director of brand communications at Mattel North America. “Not only is she really culturally relevant but an amazing role model and inspiration for young girls.”
She champions what she believes in
Copeland hasn’t hesitated to speak her mind on a range of issues, including racism and body positivity. Last year, for instance, she acknowledged to The Telegraph that ballet had historically been racist. She mentors aspiring dancers and participates in programs to broaden ballet’s appeal. Much of this is rooted in her own struggles to find a place in a very insider world as an outsider.
“She speaks to the idea of empowerment from a place that accepts struggle, failure and falling down as a part of it, making her even more authentic,” said Carley Barton, copywriter at GYK Antler. “She wears rejection as a badge of honor.”
She is socially-savvy
Copeland crafts an affable and distinctive personality to her million Instagram followers. Her Instagram feed gives a glimpse into her daily life and professional announcements. She also proved her social prowess earlier this week when she did an Instagram takeover of People Style magazine’s account.
“She’s an incredibly powerful presence in social because people are naturally drawn to her story,” said Hartman. “The positivity, support and sense of community on her pages is overwhelming.”