On Wednesday, Khloé Kardashian confirmed her long-rumored pregnancy with boyfriend Tristan Thompson in an Instagram post. Perhaps as notable as the announcement itself was the conspicuous inclusion of the iconic Calvin Klein undergarments band on Kardashian’s sports bra.
Speculation erupted on social media as to whether the Calvin Klein brand had a hand in crafting Kardashian’s pregnancy post and, more specifically, whether the post was sponsored content.
After Beyoncé’s momentous pregnancy reveal on Instagram earlier this year — which was the most-liked Instagram photo of all time — it has become a mainstay for pop-culture fans to analyze the potentially covert meanings hidden within long-anticipated celebrity announcements.
While the Kardashians are no strangers to #sponcon, neither Kardashian herself nor the Calvin Klein team has confirmed that the pregnancy post is indeed a marketing ploy. Kardashian doesn’t tag Calvin Klein in the post itself, and the post is not promoted on any Calvin Klein social media platform. (The Calvin Klein team did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.)
Publicly, the Kardashian-Jenner family has a relatively understated relationship with the Calvin Klein brand. Model Kendall Jenner appeared in 2015 advertisements for the iconic Americana company before chief creative officer Raf Simons took control a year later. As for Khloé, she has plugged Calvin Klein publicly on Twitter only once, in a 2016 tweet telling readers that there was a CK bra she loved.
Per the Federal Trade Commission’s influencer marketing guidelines, influencers and celebrities are required to disclose when their posts are paid content in a clear manner, which includes tagging a brand, using a hashtag early on within a caption indicating that a post is “sponsored” or an “advertisement,” and, on Instagram, using a feature available to influencers to indicate that a post is “in partnership with” a brand. None of that is found in the Kardashian pregnancy post. That said, the Kardashians have been accused of improperly identifying their pay-for-play posts in the past, though it seems as though they — along with many other social media savants — have begun including sponsorship tags more obviously.
The market for celebrity pregnancy announcements and baby photos became hyperinflated in the mid-aughts, but it has since been swapped out for Instagram announcements that allow celebrities to control their messaging to fans. In a piece in the Atlantic documenting Beyoncé’s second pregnancy announcement in early 2017, Renée Cramer, author of Pregnant With the Stars: Watching and Wanting the Celebrity Baby Bump, explained, “Jay-Z and Beyoncé have been amazingly good at stifling that market, or at least using it to their own benefit. They have privatized these images and made fans feel part of the family circle that gets to see them, rather than selling them — or worse, having the paparazzi grab them.”
Shelley Buckner, account director at the Social Intelligence Agency, a firm that helps celebrities and influencers craft their own digital strategies, says the Kardashian pregnancy announcement fits within Khloé’s brand strategy: appear authentic.
“If you’re that brand [Calvin Klein], you’d love for that picture to go up. I can’t speak with certainty, but it would be a brilliant strategy not to tag or mention Calvin Klein, and have it appear to be like any other authentic post.”
Buckner continues, “Instead of saying she’s wearing it to be paid, posting without a tag creates a better connection with her audience if they think that’s what she wants to wear. No one wants to be told to ‘buy this’ constantly; they just want to look like their favorite celebrities.”
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