A lot of people across Canada’s largest metropolis said “for real!?” when Toronto-born Degrassi star Drake first came out singing ‘You the f*cking best’, but naysayers have turned to fans over the years as Aubrey “Drake” Graham has proven he’s here to stay. Backed by Lil Wayne and the Cash Money family, he’s a true game-changer in hip-hop and has surpassed most of the biggest R&B and hip-hop names today.
He also happens to be (arguably) Canada’s most recognizable citizen (and a notable young professional (aka YP), at that), which is why the Toronto Raptors jumped on the opportunity to welcome him aboard the organization. It was announced yesterday that Drake will be taking the team for a ride as their “Global Ambassador,” a large part of which involves taking charge of a major rebranding campaign for a team that’s struggled to escape mediocrity for almost two decades.
While the move certainly does little to improve on-court performance in the short-term, here’s why Drake’s involvement will help the Toronto Raptors moving forward…
Players love Drake
Whether it’s superstars like LeBron James (who Drake celebrated with after the Heat won the championship last year… but we won’t get into that) or Raptors players themselves (see: Amir Johnson yesterday), there’s no doubt that Drake is part of the NBA crew. The Raptors are notorious for being ditched for fame south of the border (Carter, McGrady) and struggle with luring prolific free agents, so there’s no harm in hiring a friend of many of the sport’s top players.
Star power courtside
The NBA is as celebrity-obsessed as Hollywood, and it looks like we finally have someone recognizable cheerleading courtside to rival LA’s Jack Nickolson and New York’s Spike Lee. Does it really mean anything? It just might; there’s a lot of play stoppages in basketball and the camera has to pan somewhere. The question is who will Drake’s +1 or, knowing him, +5 be sitting courtside? A lot of his rapper and celeb friends will have a whole new reason aside from TIFF to swing by Toronto.
Drake knows branding
Part of Drake’s role will be to rebrand everything from merchandising (fashion, food, film, etc.) to logos, colours and pretty much all other aspects of the Raptors except the name. As the biggest brand in hip-hop – an industry where your persona is all that matters – we certainly couldn’t think of a better candidate to re-make a team. Seriously – is there anyone local you can think of that’s better suited for the role?
He’s a draw for non-basketball fans
New MLSE President and CEO Tim Leiweke plans to form the Raptors as Canada’s team – which is fitting, since it’s the only basketball team that plays in our country (yes, we do miss the Grizzlies). So while it may be a challenge to drum up support for the Raptors in cities across the country based on basketball interest alone, there is certainly no shortage of Drake fans that will at least have the team on their radar now. If his hip-hop appeal translates to getting a younger, female demographic into the sport, all the better.
It’s all coming together
Drake’s appointment as Raptors Global Ambassador is not by chance – this team has lofty promises and a ton of disappointment to account for. Despite failing to make the playoffs for the fifth year in a row last season, there’s definitely hope with the team’s current core of players, much of which hinges on the potential of young sophomore Jonas Valanciunas. Throw in two borderline all-star wing players in Rudy Gay and DeMar Derozan, and the playoffs are definitely within reach. The city was also recently granted the 2016 All-Star game and last year’s Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri was brought in as the team’s GM in the off-season to steer the ship to glory. If there’s a time to go big with this team, it’s now.
So, there you have it. Drake will help the organization based on hype alone, which makes a lot of sense from a business perspective but also puts a lot of pressure on management and the team to perform. MLSE have gone all in and there will be serious backlash from a restless fan base if this latest style-over-substance move doesn’t produce results on the court. We know Drake will bring his A-game – and are eagerly anticipating tip-off on October 30 – and can only hope his arrival signals a turning point for the franchise by the time the 2016 All-Star game hits the ACC.
What did fellow young professionals think of the announcement?
“I think nothing bad can happen from this announcement. Similar to BlackBerry naming Alicia Keys, etc., if he does nothing more than act as a figurehead, it still lends worldwide credibility to Toronto as a city. However, I’ve seen first-hand his love for the game and we all know the pedestal he puts Toronto on, so I doubt that he is doing this for anything disingenuous. I look forward to seeing the fruits of this new collaboration, even if for nothing more than catching a few free performances at a game or two.”
– Corey Herscu, technology expert
“I think the “Drake deal” is a creative strategic partnership on the part of MLSE to incorporate another attraction or draw to the games (because clearly letting the team draw in fans on their own isn’t working out too well).?I don’t know what the costs are for bringing in Drake, but I’m sure it’s a lot less costly than having to pay top-tier players and spend 2-3 years rebuilding a team into a playoff contender.
The only concern I see here is that this is a band-aid approach to fixing a bigger problem (the team not be competitive, and thus fans not buying tickets to see games).
There are many other questions here to be answered: Will Drake attend some games? Will he perform? Can he convince people to watch the Raptors games live or on a Rogers/Bell-owned network just because he is a huge celebrity??I’m not convinced that a Drake fan, who doesn’t like basketball, will watch basketball or pay (expensive prices) to see a game live just because Drake said so. If the team was winning 70% of their games and in contention to make the playoffs, I would definitely be slightly more intrigued.”
– Daniel DiManno, chartered accountant
“I find it interesting that they make this move, not so much as a Drake or a Raptors fan, but as someone that’s got a deep interest in sport and the business of it. Does it seem awkward? Definitely. Of all the Canadian teams he could have partnered with, does it make the most sense? Certainly. Drake has to look out for number one, and as he continues to grow his name globally, I think it was the best fit for Drake. Who came out on top with this? If I was a betting man, I’d say Drake gets the best of this deal. However, that comes from this cynical Canadian sports fan who never had his teams win anything. With that said, I hope it does something to re-invigorate basketball in Canada. If you look at some of the stats behind the popularity of basketball in Canada, a boost of the only Canadian NBA franchise might do wonders for the sport similar to how the Women’s National Football (soccer) team has helped grow the game in Canada and how Milos Raonic being the first Canadian ever to crack the top 10 ranked players in the world is undoubtedly fostering a future for Canada in the world of tennis.”
Richard Loat, Founder, Five Hole for Food
Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn