SBD/October 1, 2013/Franchises

Leiweke Out-Voted By MLSE BOD On Raptors Name Change, Despite New Colors/Look

Drake will help with a Raptors re-brand, but the team name will not change
During Raptors media day yesterday, which included a formal announcement of the '16 NBA All-Star Game coming to Toronto and rapper Drake joining as a global ambassador, MLSE President & CEO Tim Leiweke admitted that he was "out-voted" by the company's BOD on changing the team's name, according to John Chick of the CBC. The club's hiring of Drake "may give the franchise more 'urban' appeal, something that may benefit them in the long run." If Drake "has a task here, it's helping turn Toronto's image as a great place to visit for NBA players into one that's a great place to play 41 winter home games in" (CBC.ca, 9/30). In Toronto, Doug Smith notes the Raptors also laid out plans for "a new look and colour scheme coming in two years." Leiweke said that the team "has already engaged a Toronto firm" to help with the rebranding process, and the club "will make an effort to somehow involve fans but thanks to marketing and licensing demands, the new look won’t be unveiled until" the '15-16 season. The NBA also "will be heavily involved." NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said, “It’s a deliberate process and I think in a good way it forces teams to slow down a little bit.” Smith writes Drake "appears to have as much passion for the organization as almost anyone employed by it" (TORONTO STAR, 10/1). Leiweke said of plans for the ASG, “You’re going to see us try to add some new elements to the all-star game that’s never been done, heavily influenced by Drake. We’re committed to making sure that he puts as much of a footprint on the all-star week as the NBA will allow us to. He’s smarter than Jay Z, he didn’t have to write a cheque to own the team, so he gets all the perks and benefits" (TORONTO SUN, 10/1).

RIGHT MOVE? In Toronto, Steve Buffery writes bringing in Drake "is a smart move" from a marketing perspective. Buffery: "But frankly, once you take off the rose-coloured glasses and look at the big picture, you realize that bringing in Drake is a move designed to deflect the fact that the Raptors are still a bit of a sad-sack outfit." While the NBA ASG is "a great party, in terms of the big picture, it doesn’t mean a thing." The Raptors "need to qualify for the playoffs." That is the "best way to sell a team." Toronto, "believe it or not, is a great basketball town." If this team "ever starts winning, interest in the Raptors will go through the roof." And as "great a talent Drake is, there’s no way a superstar NBA free agent is going to sign with the Raptors based on the fact that Drake is a team ambassador" (TORONTO SUN, 10/1). The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair writes the news coming from media day yesterday "will be seen in some quarters as something to divert attention from the Raptors' on-court challenges." Blair: "Truth is, a percentage of the Raptors fan base wants the team to tank and get a shot at homegrown franchise player Andrew Wiggins, the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/1).

PLAYERS LIKE IT: Raptors G Kyle Lowry said, "It’s great for the city, it’s great for the team, it’s great for the franchise. With a global artist like that, being around and being a marketing guy, it’s always really good to have something like that for the popularity of the team and the city and the organization.” Raptors G D.J. Augustin: "He’s not your ordinary rapper. He brings a lot of things with him: a lot of class, different types of fans and different types of business people" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/1).

STILL NEED TO WIN
: In Toronto, Mike Ganter writes yesterday's event was "a far cry from media days of years past." It "sure was an eventful one for a franchise that has yet to show the basketball product on the court alone can make the sale." Adding Drake "isn’t going to win you any more games, but it certainly can help in the pursuit of those wins." Having Drake "allows the Raptors to sell the sizzle and make no mistake about it, that’s exactly what Drake is." Ganter: "Just don’t go expecting Drake, no matter how many big NBA names he knows, to become GM Masai Ujiri’s chief recruiter." Drake has been "angling for a role within the Raptors organization for some time but it was only recently that his interest was reciprocated." He said, "Tim (Leiweke) was the first one to reach out and accept a meeting. We sat down and realized that we were on common ground in a lot of areas. We were on the same page about a lot of things." Ganter: "Bottom line for the Raptors is they are opening the door to a guy who can do them a lot of good in many areas just because of who he is" (TORONTO SUN, 10/1). Drake yesterday "acknowledged his hectic schedule makes it tough for him to pitch in on the daily challenge of marketing." He said, "I do take it very seriously as a new job and a new chapter in my life. It’s not just something for the sake of all the cameras.” In Toronto, Morgan Campbell notes the Raptors "wouldn’t verify whether Drake is on the team’s payroll, but a team employee hitting nightclubs with another club’s players might expose the Raptors to the NBA’s anti-tampering rules" (TORONTO STAR, 10/1).

SECOND FIDDLE? In Toronto, Royson James writes the "centre of the hockey universe paused a few hours to give top billing to basketball -- on the eve of the new hockey season." Basketball in Toronto "plays a poor second cousin to hockey’s domination." Suddenly, the Raptors "get an unprecedented opportunity to stage one of the most spectacular, hyped, star-studded events on the annual basketball calendar" (TORONTO STAR, 10/1).
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