The NFL is looking to rebrand — and they’re getting help from Jay-Z and Roc Nation to do so. According to reports, the NFL is preparing to announce a “sweeping business partnership” with Roc Nation.
Front Office Sports: Roc Nation is planning a press conference for Wednesday in New York. The company declined comment Tuesday. An NFL spokesman also declined to comment.
If it comes to fruition, an alliance could be a smart deal for both sides. Partnering with Jay-Z’s firm would help give the NFL more credibility while tapping the knowledge of a wide-ranging entertainment company with its finger on the pulse of the younger, urban audience. Jay-Z’s 11-year old Roc Nation, meanwhile, would be able to point to a partnership with the $15 billion NFL, the nation’s most popular and powerful sports league, as it looks to further expand into sports.
Roc Nation’s sports unit currently represents Saquon Barkley, arguably the league’s most exciting young player, taken with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Giants.
Other sports clients include: NBA superstar Kyrie Irving, MLB pitcher CC Sabathia, NFL star Dez Bryant, and boxing champions Miguel Cotto and Andre Ward. Music clients include the biggest names in music: Jay-Z himself, Rihanna, Big Sean and DJ Khaled.
The NFL’s once bullet-proof “Shield” image has been battered in recent seasons, as the league has been dinged by several on- and off-the-field issues, ranging from how it handles player protests and attacks from President Donald Trump to domestic violence and concussions.
TV ratings took a hit in both 2016 and 2017 as many of these issues came to surface, dropping 8% and 10%, respectively. Most notably during that period was then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the U.S. national anthem. The league and its TV partners have since struggled with how to handle players protesting for racial and social justice.
While ratings bounced back in 2018 as the league found itself wading less into controversy – the league’s average game viewership grew 5% to 15.8 million viewers while digital streaming viewership rose 86% – many of those issues are still festering – things that Roc Nation might be able to help the league tackle better.