By: Darren Heitner
Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports agency is trying to think outside of the box with its newest off-field/court endeavor. The agency that was founded in 2013 and represents the likes of Dez Bryant, Kevin Durant and Miguel Sano is doing what it says no agency has done before -- packaging its players for group endorsement deals with brands looking for enhanced promotion.
Roc Nation Sports' first group package deal is with headphones, speakers and cables company Monster. It provides Monster with a diverse array of Roc Nation Sports rookie clients who play various sports and are able to market Monster products in different markets.
The Monster campaign involves Roc Nation Sports football client Leonard Fournette and JuJu Smith Schuster, as well as basketball clients Josh Hart and Dwayne Bacon. All of the individuals involved are rookies in their respective sport, and Roc Nation Sports' strategy is to at least begin its group packaging product strictly with its classes of rookie clientele. However, Roc Nation Sports is hopeful that at the end of the rookie season, the brand and athletes will work together to transition into new deals on their own, and not in the group format.
"If we can align them with blue chip brands during their rookie season and give them an opportunity to start building their brand portfolio as part of a group partnership, what a great opportunity for them," says Roc Nation President and Chief of Branding/Strategy Michael Yormark. "The leverage we have going to a company like Monster with multiple players in multiple markets is easier than marketing the players individually. There is no question it would be more difficult to align them individually.
The agreements between the aforesaid athletes and Monster are structured as one-year deals, and depending on the traction Roc Nation Sports gains collectively through those athletes, it will look to either renew with those same athletes or insert new rookies into the relationship next year.
"One of the reasons why athletes choose Roc Nation is because of the opportunities we can create for them off the field," says Yormark. "So we started to go to companies to create programs like this, where they support our rookie class and the young athletes we are signing and are ultimately looking to build their brand portfolio."
Roc Nation Sports is pitching the group packaging platform as one that will work regardless of a player's draft position and is using Dwayne Bacon, a mid-second round NBA Draft pick who is part of the Monster deal, as an example. Bacon is receiving the same "partnership" as 2017 fourth overall NFL Draft pick Leonard Fournette, but not necessarily the same amount of guaranteed money and product. There is an analysis that Roc Nation Sports conducts with the brand, which looks at a player's social reach, platform, market size and overall popularity that drives the individual investment. The difference in pay per player is minimal, according to Yormark.
"Whether or not they're first round or second round picks doesn't really matter," adds Yormark. "What matters is that they are aggressively going to activate the relationship and do whatever is necessary to reach the brand's goals and objectives."
The agency will receive the same commission from this new type of group deal as it would on deals it procures for individual athletes, per Yormark.
Roc Nation Sports executives are meeting with Monster tomorrow to talk about the next steps to this first-of-its-kind relationship, and how the parties can truly amplify the partnerships moving forward. Monster will start seeing activation from the endorser athletes within the coming weeks. In the meantime, Josh Hart has sent out a short teaser on social media.
Monster is just the first group deal for Roc Nation Sports, which says that it is working with a beverage company that it believes will do something very similar with some of Roc Nation Sports' rookie clients.
"The space is very competitive," says Yormark, referring to the athlete agent industry. "From a marketing standpoint, you want to differentiate from your competitors. We are looking to create unique opportunities for our young athletes. Clearly athletes that we're pitching in the future will obviously take notice of what we're doing."
Darren Heitner the Founder of South Florida-based HEITNER LEGAL, P.L.L.C. and Sports Agent Blog. He authored the book, How to Play the Game: What Every Sports Attorney Needs to Know.