Started from the Bottom (of the NBA)

Recent big news coming out of Toronto is that rap star Drake has become the global ambassador of the Toronto Raptors NBA basketball team, and a lot of people are wondering: what does this mean? and is this a good idea?

Well, for starters, the idea is similar to how Coca-Cola, Pepsi or any beauty care company signs someone famous to be the face of their brand, and that is to cash in on this person’s popularity.



The Toronto Raptors organization is a business, just like Maybelline, and having Drake as a spokesperson for the franchise will increase exposure and awareness to potential customers around the world.

I’ve seen people commenting online wondering what Drake has to do with a basketball franchise, what the point of all this is.  The answer is: so that the Toronto Raptors can benefit from Drake’s personal brand identity and help improve the franchise’s image in the media, and to its fans.  Right now, Drake is one of the most famous artists in the world, and on the surface, his mere association with the franchise should improve retail merchandise sales. More than that, however, Drake is actually a very hard working, driven individual who is intelligent, successful, and loves the city of Toronto. I believe that the attributes that Drake possesses act as a guide to the players on the team, to develop a similar work ethic and drive for success, and send a message to players throughout the league that this team stands for these values. While this may not directly translate into attracting new talent to the team, the culture that I hope Drake’s association can bring to the organization may indirectly attract players that have the same mindset (just as how every Starbucks drinker with a creative mindset wishes to work for Apple).

The downside to this agreement, as is the case of all celebrity sponsorship deals, is that Drake will not be at the top of his craft forever, and while the agreement may only last a few years, an artist’s popularity can change rapidly, either through the evolution of the industry, or from the negative attributes that the celebrity possesses . Only 2-3 years ago, Justin Bieber was the singer that all teens loved, but recently has been known more for his dumb behaviour than his singing.



Because the Toronto Raptors do not own the Drake brand, it is difficult for them to have any control over or adhere to the image they wish to present, which is a risk that every brand that uses celebrity endorsement must live with. At present, however, it would appear as though the Toronto Raptors do not have much to worry about, as Drake has so far remained gaffe-free.

Importantly, having Drake as an ambassador, and the work that he may put into this effort will not be enough to turn around the fortunes of this team on its own. Celebrity endorsements are great at increasing exposure for the brand and developing positive associations to the brand itself.  The value proposition, however, remains the same, and if the company does not deliver on its promise to customers, all the glitzy press releases in the world will be of no help. An example of this can be seen through Blackberry’s announcement of having Alicia Keys as the company’s Global Creative Director prior to the launch of their Blackberry 10 operating system. As recent news has shown, the company lost $934 million due to unsold phones post the Alicia Keys announcement showing that her presence wasn’t able to prevent Blackberry’s demise.

The association with Drake should help improve the Raptors’ image and the franchise’s culture, but at the end of the day it will all be for naught if the team does not deliver deliver on its purpose of existence – winning basketball games. Hopefully this marks the beginning of a new era for this franchise, because I am tired of watching them lose!

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