Putting it bluntly, as the title reads the relationship that The Raptors and Drake have forged is underrated. What The Raptors have done with the Toronto native is progressive and different in the world of sport marketing.
In 2013 The Raptors made Drake their global ambassador and from there a number of different activations have been made with the assistance of the artist. This addition coming a few years after the franchise had been struggling with on court success and the brand was in need of revitalisation. Drakes’ role is unique and what he has done is brought in a new culture to the team and franchise. Along with the city itself Drake has put Toronto truly on the map for Basketball. His role standing out since he is apart of and seen as an asset to the organisation. Teams can have celebrity super-fans like Bill Murray (Chicago Cubs) and celebrities can own parts of a team/full team like Russell Crowe owns The South Sydney Rabbitohs (Rugby League). But in this case Drake essentially as an ambassador has opened a new revenue stream for The Raptors. This being a rare sight and one that is under-utilised in sport team brands.
So what has entailed since he has donned the Global Ambassador badge for the brand? Since September 2013 there have been four ‘Drake Nights’ which have included a variety of different fan engagement strategies. These including the handing out of free OVO (Octobers Very Own) merchandise with the addition of The Raptors logo, ‘Copy Cat’ cam where the camera pans the audience and they have to copy one of Drake’s ‘poses’ (Reference: Hotline Bling), a ‘Hotline Bling Booth’ (once again, reference to the music video) and even for the 2016 All-Star Game an entree on the concessions menu was named ‘Hot Lime Bling’ (slightly cringe, but long as it works!).
Drake himself has been involved in the event by being court side making his presence well known, announcing team line ups, giving away special edition Nike OVO Air Jordan sneakers and aiding in half time events.
Yet looking over the history of the past few years his most influential move within the team was the addition of the Black and Gold OVO jerseys as part of The Raptors new jersey line-up for the 2015-16 season. Which he dropped and unveiled wearing at his OVO Fest show early August 2015. The timing all being crucial between the star and the team, since around that time Drake and other rapper Meek Mill had ‘beef’ and rumours were flying (along with the memes). Around the time Drake took the stage the trends within Google of people searching for the new jerseys increased, and overall the announcement by Raptors on social media made 125 million impressions.
There now is also the Sher Club (named after Drakes grandparents) which has been brought by Drake within the ACC and opened in 2015. It is an exclusive night club for members only, this adding a revenue stream for the MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment).
Drake is the ideal representative for The Raptors since he has sold the city of the Toronto the world over through lyrics and for his natural love of his hometown. Yet, there also is additional fit between the two parties. Since the late seventies basketball and the NBA has always had some tie to Hip-Hop/Rap music. This coming through rap artist lyrics, players who have even dropped songs (Kobe/Shaq), and styles played on by both musicians and players themselves. Plus lets not forget to mention the song dropped in 2009 ‘Forever’ which included Drake, Eminem, Kanye West and Lil’ Wayne which was part of the More Than A Game documentary soundtrack which follows the rise of Lebron James and fellow high school team mates.
Potential Risk? The risks lie within Drake being a Global Ambassador is the governance of the NBA and the ‘anti-tampering rule’ which in 2014 ruled that Drake would fall under this clause. And within that year (August) the NBA fined The Raptors $25 000 for comments Drake made implying how things would be if Kevin Durant were to move to The Raptors. Simply put, Drake needs to watch what he says and ‘tampering’ too deep into the organisation. This being a potential reason as to why the utilisation of such ‘Global Ambassadors’ lack, those within sporting organisations may see too much at stake. In addition there to remains the general risks of potential partnerships disintegrating through miscommunications or transgressions of either party.
Reference: Toronto Sun, Toronto Star, SportsNet, BillBoard and MTV.
If you want to learn further on the impact Drake has had on the city of Toronto itself, read this Toronto Star article.