Kevin Hart Seriously Next Level
ADWEEK|September 24, 2018

Not only is the Comedian's Branding game on point; He's alsoredefining the celebrity endorsement.

Kristina Monllos

‘Grind time, baby!’ Kevin Hart is ready for the day. Infact, he’s pumped. On this particular morning in early September, Hart’s about to plug the hell out of his new movie, Night School, on radio and television in Atlanta. The comedy, which he co-wrote and stars in opposite Tiffany Haddish, is about to kick off its promotional tour in earnest ahead of its Sept. 28 release, but Hart is getting a head start right now with a post to Instagram Stories, speaking directly to his 62.4 million followers. “You know nobody does the promo like your boy KHart,” he says into his phone, his voice equal parts gruff and velvety.

It would be an outright boast if it weren’t completely true. The 39-year-old comedian-actor-producer-athlete-CEO has achieved success far beyond the bounds of ratings or the box office, in large part by putting his own savvy twist on even the most ordinary forms of promotion.

He’s on a hot streak, for example, with Cold as Balls, a comedy review series for Old Spice that’s now in its second season. Hart and his team at his comedy platform, Laugh Out Loud (LOL), had cooked up the concept of hosting a talk show featuring sports stars being interviewed in a locker room, but with him and his subjects sitting in side-by-side ice baths, as if they’ve just played a big game, for the duration of the conversation. Seeing the sponsorship opportunities the concept presented, he and his team reached out to Wieden + Kennedy and Old Spice, and an ongoing relationship was born. You watch the interviews not only to see Hart ask your favorite athletes the tough questions—he’s a surprisingly great interviewer—but also to see how long he could possibly handle sitting in the freezing water. Hart also has a hit on his hands with Lyft Legend, in which he dons an old-man disguise to trick passengers into crass yet intimate conversations (it too is on Season 2).

What sounds like a lot of extra work for an endorsement deal is actually a strategy. Hart is angling for more than one-off deals; he wants to establish true relationships, and not just with one brand. Hart’s ambition is for all of the endorsements to amplify each other and ultimately himself. Because Kevin Hart is a brand, and he knows it.

“I have the talent to make other people feel very comfortable in any environment that I’m in,” says Hart. It’s late August and Hart has phoned from Paris, where he’s getting ready to perform in front of thousands, one of the many European dates on his “Irresponsible” comedy tour. “I’m not threatening, and that’s how I’m able to put myself in front of all audiences, all ages. It doesn’t matter your race, your size, ethnicity, age. I’m comfortable in all of those environments because of the person that I am, which allows me to build my brand even more. That’s the talent of being a likable personality.”

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