Jay Z knows one thing for sure, he has built powerful brands: Jay Z, Roc Nation and Shawn Carter. The strength of a brand’s equity directly affects its ability to innovate and traverse markets into new adjacencies. His latest brand move into Roc Nation Sports is positioned in the market to further grow athletes’ brands.
Perhaps Jay Z’s small ownership stake in the Brooklyn Nets basketball team opened his eyes to the world of sports and the opportunities available to build stronger brands for athletes. He is planning to become a certified sports agent and recently created the sub-brand Roc Nation Sports, signing on the Yankee’s elite second baseman, Robinson Cano. True to his music roots, Jay Z raps on his “Crown” album “Robinson Cano, you coming with me.” ( Nice little score! )
Interestingly, if Jay Z wants to go on to represent basketball players, he will have to sell his stake in the Nets in accordance with NBA rules. That move would surely be a sign that he is broadening beyond a pilot effort in baseball to engage in deals across the sports world.
The Roc-Nation Sports proposition is seductive for the US athlete, who sees Jay Z as a master of brand building on a global scale. Today there is considerable tension inside the NFL between players and owners regarding the freedom an athlete has over his own identity and brand. When athletes sign to a team, their contract significantly constrains ownership of their personal brand. This limits what they can do, including in the world of social media. There are players and lawyers actively raising their voices around this issue. No doubt we will be hearing more debate on this subject of brand ownership, since players are trying to maximize their income at the peak of their short careers.
It may be that Jay Z had the foresight to recognize a shifting sports landscape and grasped its potential in a global arena. Instead of viewing entertainment as the only territory for his brand, he chose to look further and test the strength of his brand and its leverage in other markets. There are some points to extract from this story for any business when it comes to identifying and acting on opportunities outside of your current market boundaries:
1. Expand the scale of the brand– by transforming athletes, from star status in their local geography, into global celebrities (think David Beckham).
2. Leverage the established brand in market cross-over–by using the Jay Z music brand to drive awareness, such as the lyric example described above.
3. Create a culturally relevant “cool” factor –by driving a hot, athlete brand that people want to connect to and follow in sports.
4. Build an international fan base– by using social media to change the scale of the athlete’s celebrity, which in turn impacts their future endorsement earnings.
5. Learn in small ways–by starting with one or two athletes Jay Z will learn the sports landscape, which has its own unique culture and codes that must be understood.
Try a little brand batting practice with your team. Create a list of your brand’s competencies and consider whether your brand could compete effectively in other markets based on the elements or attributes of your brand’s equity. If your brand dimensions are currently limited to your market definition, then you have an opportunity to build other assets, with an eye to where you could expand.
This exercise is useful to stimulate dialogue within your team to identify those adjacent areas and determine whether they are financially attractive to consider or pilot. Jay Z is using a test and learn strategy, rather than swinging for a home run. You can do the same in your business to innovate beyond the current constraints and open up your field of play.
image credit: creative commons / kim erlandsen & william perlman
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Donna Sturgess is the President and Co-founder of Buyology Inc and former Global Head of Innovation for GlaxoSmithKline. She is also Executive in Residence at Carnegie Mellon University. Her latest book is Eyeballs Out: How To Step Into Another World, Discover New Ideas, and Make Your Business Thrive. Follow on Twitter: @donnasturgess