The signing of Kevin Durant has certainly solidified Jay Z’s foray into the fold of sports representation. Durant, formerly represented by Rob Pelinka of Landmark Sports, made the announcement via his Twitter that he would be the 1st active NBA player to be a part of the budding Roc Nation Sports.
As a marquee player and the 2nd best player on the planet, every endorsement deal that Durant should have is already in place. As the franchise player for the Thunder, his contract has already been extended out until the 2015-16 season. Contractually, there’s nothing that Roc Nation Sports brings to the table at this time. The only endorsement deals missing from KD’s portfolio that Jay could add is perhaps a liquor brand and the development of an overpriced t-shirt line (a la Young Whales). So how important is this signing?
I saw a tweet yesterday that was saying sports agents should be nervous that the “coolness” of being affiliated with a hip hop icon might sway some of their younger clients. It seems like people have this impression that Roc Nation Sports is going to come in and snatch up star players left and right. I have a few reasons why I just don’t see Roc Nation posing a threat the way hype is building it up to.
First of all, contractually representing a player is not the same as managing them or handling 1 aspect of their brand. Victor Cruz is not represented by Roc Nation. His agent is employed by Creative Artists Agency. However, Cruz’s marketing campaigns will be managed by Roc Nation. Once he finally signs his new contract, his brand’s value will soar. So the relationship with Jay will continue to integrate Cruz’s New Jersey roots and him playing for the Giants,. CAA will likely still handle the major endorsements that come with hefty contracts (Gatorade, Nike, EA, 2K, etc)
There’s always going to be athletes to represent. With each draft class, there’s going to be a set 7-10 highly touted athletes that will shop for agents as soon as they declare. That leaves plenty of other athletes who may not have that exact star potential, but they’re marketable in unconventional ways. A youthful agency like Roc Nation has the leeway to be more creative in their approach of managing the newer athletes. Consider this; nobody really watches the WNBA. But Skylar Diggins is beautiful, likeable, and can appeal to an audience beyond just basketball. From a business standpoint, it’s very obvious why she’s a great fit for an agency like Jay’s.
Lastly, the community of sports agents is quite insulated. Now that I’m in it, I can attest to this firsthand. As I said, there’s never going to be a shortage of league-ready athletes to represent. However, the reality is that there are a select group of agents that are able to get meetings with the annual top draft picks. Most of those meetings are unofficially cemented during the player’s freshman year. Athletes sign with the agencies that they do for 2 reasons: because of the alumni connection or because current clients co-signed the agent. There’s only 6-7 agencies that can boast a proven legacy of transforming their clients into global brands.
I believe that Kevin Durant signing to Roc Nation is essentially meaningless until Durant’s current contract expires. With the exception of Lebron James, there haven’t been any elite players who have left their original agents. By the time Durant is a free agent, Roc Nation would’ve had 2.5 years to bring on more talent. Only then will you be able to see the tangibility of Jay’s influence in the sports world.
Do you think Jay and Roc Nation pose a threat to current agents? Any predictions on the next active player who’ll follow Durant to Roc Nation?