|Suggested by A. Savard|
By Andre Savard:
Torontonian and hip hop star Drake, who once started from the bottom was recently announced by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment as the new global brand ambassador to the struggling Toronto Raptors NBA franchise. As the Raptors continue to be known for being stuck at the bottom, their new rebranding and PR campaign aims to use star power as part of a celebrity endorsement and franchise rebranding strategy.
Brand ambassadors have been well established in the world of marketing based on the concept that brand ambassadors symbolize cultural meanings in society, thus when a strong association exists between a product and an endorser, a median is created to connect the product with consumers, thus building and enhancing brand power. How this marketing trend differs is that professional sports traditionally focus on actual player-hype and promotion in a branding campaign, rather than the injection of celebrity power. This article illustrates how celebrity endorsement is becoming an integral part of marketing communications and branding for the Raptors, not to mention other NBA teams. However, it can only work for the Raptors if consumers have a credible belief that Drake is genuinely committed and linked to the Raptors brand despite being paid to act so. Drake, who’s known for his strong musical tie to inner-cities, his courtside support to the Raptors, positive social-influence, and his chart-topping lyrics that praise “Toronto as a first-rate global city” evoke the marketing message sought by Raptors management. The Raptors aim to boost franchise popularity and explore new branding opportunities with Drake as their brand ambassador.
Overall, the Raptors rebranding strategy shows promise for a franchise rebound; however, in an era dominated by social media and near instantaneous information exchange, there remains serious risk of marketing backfire if Drake’s public opinion shifts negative, thus creating unwanted brand associations!