Music plays a huge role in sports culture, from the chants sung at games, songs that define a team/person, television theme tunes (Grandstand, Hockey Night in Canada) and in recent times it has become a psychological aide for sports stars in pre match rituals donning the Beats headphones.
However, that is music that benefits the experience for fans, viewers and athletes. This post looks at the implications as to how music and musicians have impacted on sports brands and pop culture. These influences coming from song lyrics, the hometown of the artist, diss tracks, and fashion.
Reflecting on history the first real significant interrelationship between the arts and a sports brand was in 1986, Run DMC and Adidas struck up a unique relationship after the rap group released the song My Adidas. This relationship bringing the world of sports apparel into a new dimension. The group themselves due to the success of their songs created a sub-culture that millions of youth across America followed and bought into the brand. It was only until a Adidas employee was in a crowd at a concert where it was realised that this could be a big opportunity to break barriers and differentiate. Since then Adidas have kept to Hip-Hop/Grime roots by the likes of collaborating and creating relationships with influencers like Stormzy, Snoop Dogg, Kanye West and Missy Elliot.
Below are a number of examples as to how brands and teams have utilised musicians and how musicians have associated themselves with sport brands.
Example #1: Drake x Toronto Raptors. In 2013 ‘The 6ix’ native, Drake was named The Raptors team ambassador. In November The Raptors held their fourth ‘Drake Night’ events which have included in a number of brand activations involving the star. Refer to a previous article of mine here.
Example #2: Diss Tracks? Using their voice. The track Facts (which can be found on West’s SoundCloud account) from West’s most recent album The Life of Pablo, is pretty much a diss track against Nike. The relationship between West and Nike fizzled out in 2013 when West signed onto Adidas. The lyrics within the song alluding to the success of the Yeezys line and how Nike would be if they weren’t to have Drake. Nike just after the relationship ended with West took on Drake and he has since collaborated with the Jordan (Jumpman) brand. Overall this probably offering more to the brand since there is a synergy between Drake and Basketball.
The Yeezy line is known to be one of the most anticipated when a new model is ‘dropped’. The hype is built and with Kanye well being Kanye, people want a piece. Pairs sell out within hours and the demand has always been high, once bought pairs can go onto eBay and sell for thousands. In 2015 Adidas Originals on Instagram came in number one with the most amount of likes from consumers, this being aided by the likes of West.
This is not the first time that Nike has been mentioned in a song that alludes to dissing them in some manner. From Macklemores album The Heist, the song Wing$ released in early 2011 discusses the consumerism around certain products. The song insinuates happenings involving various pairs of sneakers within Macklemore’s childhood, specifically Nike. It even mentions that Phil Knight ‘tricked us all’, Knight being the co-founder of Nike. However, due to the amount of Basketball references the song was edited (of course with all insinuating lyrics cut out) and used in ads surrounding the 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend.
Example #3: Jay-Z and the New York Yankees. With numerous references in different songs, it is evident that Jay-Z and the New York Yankees go together. Along with fashion choices by the man himself, donning a Yankees Cap. In September 2010 Jay-z was the first to host a concert at The Yankees new stadium (featuring Eminem) along with launching a Jay-Z branded New York Yankees clothing line to commemorate the event. Exclusively sold by the stadium for a period of around 2 weeks.
What makes the utilisation of musicians rather than professional athletes as endorsers different, is success isn’t per se as quantifiable. Athletes have tangibility when it comes to their success, you also get to see who they are as person when competing in their sport. Plus athletes, the ones that are chosen or used in endorsements are ones that are idolised and are known to be generally liked by most of the public (generally). Hence why if a athlete is to digress in anyway (personal life issues, doping, unruly behaviour), the sponsorship or endorsement deals can go out the window easily. Yet with musicians, the success can be quantifiable in terms of number of downloads/streams/awards, but their work is very different. It can be competitive like sport but it is an art. The music they make is not to everyones taste, they are much more likely to speak out on different controversial topics through their music. The boundaries are extended, here brands have to extend their ‘zone of tolerance’. To what extent will a brand stay with a musician if a digression occurs?
The use of musicians, their songs/lyrics and fashion statements can heavily impact brands as it diversifies the market the brand sells itself to. And as seen back in the 80’s by Run DMC sub-cultures are created and a new markets are opened. It takes just one person to see the opportunity.
Reference to: Business Insider, Adidas Group, ESPN