It’s been said that athletes want to be rappers and rapper want to be athletes. Artists such as Nelly and Usher achieved success in the music industry and have invested in shares of professional sports teams. However, no one has done it as well as hip-hop mogul and entrepreneur Shawn Carter, better known as Jay Z.
Last season, the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association (NBA) moved to Brooklyn. After decades of poor attendance, the team needed a fresh start and wanted to completely revamp their brand image. Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov purchased the team in 2010 and set plans in motion to move from Newark, New Jersey to Brooklyn. Prokhorov, 47, predicted that the team, which had lost nearly $300 million in the previous four years, would win a title and be worth $1 billion by 2015. The first step was to that goal was to build a new arena. The next step was getting Jay Z on board.
Jay Z grew up just blocks away from the site of the new $1.02 billion arena, the Barclays Center, so it made sense for a local celebrity to have a say in the rebranding of the team. Despite owning just one-fifteenth of one percent of the team, his impact is noticeable on all levels. He helped design the logo and chose the black and white color scheme. He counseled executives on what kind of music to play during games. The arena contains a 40/40 Club, an iteration of his sports-bar-style nightclub. There will be a Rocawear store, selling his clothing line, on the arena’s exterior. Even the advertising agency used by the Nets, Translation, is half-owned by Jay. 11 “Vault” luxury suites were designed to his liking, costing those fans about $550,000 per year. Of course, his is free of charge. He even went as far as advising security on how to screen fans for weapons without being too pushy.
In September of 2012, Jay Z helped open the new arena with a week straight of concerts, selling out each one of them. Meanwhile, part-owners like the aforementioned Usher and Nelly have had no direct impact on their teams, other than the occasional court-side appearance. Other teams would be wise to look for other celebrities and artists to generate hype, like what the Toronto Raptors are doing with Drake.
Mr. Carter has capitalized further on his Nets investment by extending the Jay Z brand into endorsement deals normally reserved for elite athletes. He starred in a Budweiser TV commercial that was broadcast during the Olympic Games, in which he fittingly wore a Nets hat and jersey.
Earlier this year, Jay Z sold his small stake in the team to pursue his own sports agency, RocNation. That agency already has a growing stable of athletes including Robinson Cano, Skylar Diggins, Kevin Durant, Geno Smith, and Victor Cruz.
Forbes had the Nets valued at $357 million before the Brooklyn move, they are now reportedly worth around $750 million and that number is expected to increase. Jay Z might be out as an owner, but his presence will be felt in Brooklyn and the entire NBA for years to come.