Brand partnerships and endorsement deals provide unique opportunities for athletes to build their personal platforms and set themselves up for long term financial success. Too often, though, these deals lack authenticity and, without appearing genuine, are unable to provide a sustainable impact for athletes or brands.
Roc Nation, an athlete and artist management agency founded by Jay-Z, is striving to change that through the “Off Script” dinner series – an initiative designed to cultivate relationships between its clients, business leaders, and brands.
Michael Yormark, who joined Roc Nation as its president and chief of branding and strategy in 2014, has been essential to the launch and success of the series. Through his role, he helps build out the brand strategy for Roc Nation athletes and artists by seeking out unique and authentic opportunities for them to align with the corporate world. One of the ways he has been able to do that is through “Off Script” events.
“The idea behind it was to provide our young athletes and young artists the opportunity to interface with brand leaders, CEOs, COOs, CMOs, so that they could develop relationships with brand leaders throughout America, understand what those brands were all about and begin to create a personal relationship with those leaders.”
Last week, Roc Nation hosted its 30th Off Script event at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in Los Angeles. The event brought together Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, Lakers guard Josh Hart, and Normani, a singer formerly with Fifth Harmony, with top executives from 23 brands, including Beats by Dre, Adidas, PMK*BNC, Revolve, and Tinder.
“It’s an opportunity for the brand leaders to get quality time with these personalities and celebrities and it gives these celebrities the opportunity to interface with these celebrities in their backyard,” says Yormark.
The events are strategically placed in cities around the country to help athletes and artists familiarize themselves with brands in the areas where they are living or working. Once the markets have been identified and the athletes or artists have expressed an interest in participating, Roc Nation works with them to determine their passion brands and send out invitations accordingly.
This is an important step in the process as Yormark and Roc Nation want to be sure there is a genuine connection between their clients and the brands at the events.
“For us, it’s all about authenticity. We’re not an agency that just does transactions. We’re an agency that really tries to build partnerships that are rooted in authenticity so that if an artist or athlete aligns with a specific brand, it makes sense. It’s real and it’s genuine,” explains Yormark.
For the brands, the opportunity is exciting, which Yormark attributes to the uniqueness of the program.
“Quite honestly I don’t think any other agency is doing anything like this,” he says. “We try to do things that are a little different, a little out of the box for our clients and find opportunities for them that they, quite frankly, can’t find anywhere else.”
Yormark and Roc Nation have found success in their unique thinking as the dinners have resulted in tangible benefits for their clients. Throughout its four year existence, the series has seen participating athletes and artists develop mentoring relationships and secure brand partnerships through conversations had at the dinners. The series has grown in size throughout its lifespan as well. The event Los Angeles was the largest “Off Site” to date, hosting about 65 people, and the first to bring together athletes and artists in the same event.
Given its success, Yormark expects the series to continue and is in the process of identifying the next location with his team at Roc Nation.