We don’t usually imagine actors and tech-forward entrepreneurs having a lot in common—and because Hollywood megastars make plenty of money, we can’t imagine most of them doing anything else. So it always fascinates us to find the rare exception: an A-list celebrity doing business because they want to be. (It certainly feels good to imagine movie stars struggling with ads and analytics just like us.)
We’ll admit our prejudice: where we come from, Ryan Reynolds might be called a “pretty boy,” someone who looks more suited for pictures than for work. Part of that is a compliment: he is (not gonna lie) one of the most beautiful human specimens we’ve ever seen, and a lot of people agree because he was named Sexiest Man Alive by People in 2010 and a Man of the Year by GQ in 2016. He’s certainly been popular enough to get customers if he wanted, but we didn’t take him for the entrepreneurial type—especially because his earlier filmography isn’t exactly noted for its depth (we couldn’t find a completely-SFW trailer for Van Wilder on YouTube, which says enough).
It turns out that Ryan Reynolds is a turbo-interesting dude, and way more “real” than most people might guess. Even if you don’t care for his acting work, he’s a fantastic digital marketer—and we’re showcasing three examples of the latter talent to taper into the weekend.
He became Aviation Gin’s creative director upon buying a significant stake of the company. Reynolds isn’t nearly the first celebrity to enter the spirits business; to name two earlier examples, (1) Clooney and two partners made $700 million selling Casamigos and (2) Diddy is basically Ciroc’s equal-share marketing department in the USA. Having said that, Reynolds isn’t following the same paths. Unlike Clooney, he didn’t start his own liquor company, much less with any personal interest in distilling—and unlike Diddy, he actually owns stake in the company for whom he’s doing marketing (Diddy gets profit share, but no equity).
Perhaps because he has (good) skin in the game, Reynolds has proven he can be Johnny On The Spot with a timely advertising opportunity. A while back, we mentioned Peloton’s cringe-ily sexist Christmas ad and Aviation’s sly response to it; we didn’t mention that Reynolds and the Aviation team had their ad online about 36 hours after Peloton’s. Reynolds tells the story on Jimmy Fallon, where he begins to explain the idea by saying: “I really wish somebody from a gin company [had] called me right after Green Lantern.”
He’s the single biggest reason Deadpool was so profitable. We’re comfortable giving him that superlative because he contributed two unique ingredients which were key to the movie’s runaway success. First, and obvious if you’ve seen the movie: he is Deadpool in a way nobody else could be. Second: he collaborated directly with Fox marketing chief Marc Weinstock to create the movie’s incomparable marketing campaign—genius not only for spinning a thin budget into a viral social-media phenomenon, but for extending the character’s trademark of breaking the fourth wall to its logical extremes.
So… how much profit are we talking about here? Deadpool was made on $60 million, which is a tiny budget for a superhero movie (Green Lantern cost about $200 million and The Avengers cost about $220 million). On the revenue side, Deadpool pulled in $782 million at the box office—about half of The Avengers’ $1.52 billion in earnings, but roughly twice as profitable against budget.
He’s (probably) the biggest reason Toon Blast has been so successful. There’s a good chance you saw one of his hilarious ads for the mobile game Toon Blast (like this one—not sure why YouTube didn’t yield us much). You may not have known that the creative genius behind the ad campaign was Tom Kuntz, the same guy who brought you Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like.”
This one is more of an honorable mention, since it was a contract gig for Reynolds—but to give you an idea of the value of (social) virality, Toon Blast made $200 million in its first year (2018).
A quick postscript: if you’d like to see what Reynolds is up to lately (like, during quarantine), check out his segment on Colbert from the beginning of April. They pitch his companies in the clip — by the way, Reynolds apparently owns a big stake in Mint Mobile (!) — but he explains what he’s doing and how he’s helping during this crisis and, by the end of the segment, we wanted to give him our business.