Old Navy Hires Backstreet Boys For Ads, Hopes '90s Nostalgia Can Revive Brand's Popularity

Old Navy and the Backstreet Boys were both at the height of their cool in the late 1990s. Now, in an appropriate paring, the clothing store chain and the boy band are geting together for a fit of retro appreciation.

The Backstreet Boys are set to play a free show in New York City's Bryant Park Friday for the occasion of Old Navy's "Rockstar Jeans" fashion show, billed as an "inclusive" fashion week event that is open to the public. The band will also star in an upcoming commercial for Rockstar Jeans premiering next Wednesday, according to a press release.

When the Backstreet Boys were at the height of their fame, companies like Sears, Burger King and Polaroid lined up for sponsorships, hoping the teen-girl frenzy the band inspired might rub off on their products. But like most of the boy and girl groups from that era -- N*Sync, S Club 7, 98 Degrees -- the Backstreet Boys have since retreated from the public eye.

Now, it seems enough time has passed for reunion concerts -- and sponsorships -- to tap into the nostalgic appeal of the 1990s. Already this fall, Old Navy aired a series of ads featuring the cast of "90210," and earlier this summer it hired Jordan Knight of New Kids On The Block for an ad that spoofed TV-infomercials for musicians' catalogs.

And '90s bands themselves aren't missing out on the nostalgia action. In late August, the Backstreet Boys reunited for a concert in New York City, and the Spice Girls performed at the Olympics in London.

Old Navy, the lowest-priced store in the Gap Inc. family, has a long history of hiring forgotten celebrities to push its products. In 1997, when the upstart brand wanted to make a national splash, it hired '80s soap opera stars Morgan Fairchild and Joan Collins. Those ads were hugely successful, fashioning Old Navy as a fun brand with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.

It's unclear whether such a strategy can be as effective today as it was the first time around. When Old Navy first became popular, selling mass quantities of colorful, trendy clothes at low prices was a relatively new concept. Today, newer brands like H&M, Forever21 and Uniqlo are beating Old Navy at that game. So in addition to the Backstreet Boys, Old Navy is hiring Stefan Larsson, the former head of global sales at H&M, as its global brand president. Larsson starts in October.



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