The 20 Million Dollar Man: Johnny Depp Re-Ups With Dior Sauvage

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It must feel pretty great to be Johnny Depp right about now. Not only was the heavily tattooed, 59-year-old bad boy lavished with a raucous, minutes-long standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival this week for his role as King Louis XV in the new period flick Jeanne Du Barry, Dior just re-signed him as the face of Sauvage.

Although the LVMH subsidiary is keeping mum on the specifics of the deal, at an estimated rate of $20 million+ for three years, it’s widely considered the most lucrative men’s fragrance contract of all time. As a basis of comparison, Twilight hottie Robert Pattinson is reported to have scored a mere $12 million for his own three-year Dior Homme scent deal.

All this, and Depp’s French is considered damned near flawless.

So how, exactly, does one secure a spokesperson contract of such magnitude, especially in a product category that typically pales in comparison to its female counterpart? Here’s how. One: Depp has been surfing a tsunami of popularity since things went decidedly his way in his 2022 defamation case against former wife Amber Heard. Two: Right now, men’s fragrance is enjoying a growth spurt the likes of which we’ve not seen in years.

A little nugget from Grand View: “The substantial brand endorsement of celebrities further encourages the male population to purchase personal care products, such as perfumes. This is also anticipated to provide noteworthy growth opportunities to the segment.”

Men’s Fragrance Is on a Tear Right Now

Before drilling down to why men’s fragrance is having such a stellar moment, let’s pan out to the decidedly rosy bigger picture.

According to Grand View Research, the global fragrance market was valued at $50.85 billion in 2022 and is currently heading north, to an expected CAGR of 5.9 percent from 2023 to 2030.

While it’s a bit of a head-scratcher, fragrance took off like a rocket during the pandemic – particularly prestige scents. Apparently, there was plenty of spritzing going on behind closed doors, and once consumers experienced the staying power of expensive perfumes, they were hooked.

And then there’s the Gen Z obsession with fragrance, to which I can personally testify. Not only does my 17-year-old daughter fill her Christmas wish list with beaucoup pricey designer perfumes, but she’s also stocking up on her own at the mall. And forget the passé notion of “signature scents;” youngsters like a wardrobe of fragrances cluttering their vanity tables, and the bigger the bottles the better.

Clearly, the fragrance category is healthy right now, and is poised for future growth. But why are guys suddenly getting the “smell great” memo?

Per Grand View, “The men end-user segment is estimated to register the fastest growth rate during the forecast period (2023 to 2030),” for a number of reasons. I’m paraphrasing here, but these include a rising global acceptance of male scent use and the growing popularity of niche fragrances over classics like, say, Guerlain Vétiver.

And then there’s this little nugget, from the same Grand View report: “The substantial brand endorsement of celebrities further encourages the male population to purchase personal care products, such as perfumes. This is also anticipated to provide noteworthy growth opportunities to the segment.”

Depp’s Considerable X (and Ex) Factor

Did Dior just get lucky when it originally signed Depp to his first Sauvage contract in 2015? Surely, there’s no crystal ball at LVMH’s Paris headquarters that could foretell that the immensely talented Hollywood renegade would wind up on the right side of public sentiment in his highly scrutinized defamation trial.

Evidently, during the court proceedings, sales of Dior Sauvage started to rise, and once the verdict rolled in, they shot through the roof. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Dior opted to stand by the beleaguered star, despite the fact he’d already been dropped by Warner Brothers, which produces the Fantastic Beasts franchise, and Disney, where he’d hung his Captain Jack Sparrow tricorn hat for so many years.

But really, can you blame Dior for wanting to cash in on its Depp alliance? Current boom notwithstanding, it’s not like the men’s fragrance market hasn’t traditionally been fraught with challenges.

Wasting exactly zero time, Dior aired a Sauvage ad on primetime television just one week after a Virginia jury awarded Depp $10.35 million in damages for an op-ed Heard penned for The Washington Post on the topic of domestic abuse. While Heard never named Depp in the Post piece, and was herself awarded $2 million in the same trial, she was no match for the court of public opinion, which gleefully tore her to shreds.

At the risk of generalizing, Dior is a storied French brand owned by a massive French conglomerate and Johnny Depp is vehemently embraced, seemingly no matter what he does, by the French. They just love watching this guy strumming his guitar in the wilderness, surrounded by coyotes, while uttering the catch phrases for Sauvage Elixir.

Of course, it takes a lot more than a single, relatively small, European country to keep a global fragrance brand afloat. And that’s where we Depp-loving Americans come in. Vive le Johnny.

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