TL;DR—Chance The Rapper is indie and making more money than any of us; LeBron James is $$$ ; You can still make money from fans that won’t pay you directly

Apple Music is working hard for their sponsorships. I know this because last night, as I was watching my Golden State Warriors absolutely cook up the Oklahoma City Thunder, I saw a commercial for Chance The Rapper’s new (Apple Music exclusive) mixtape, Coloring Book.  Let’s break that down.

A national television commercial during an NBA playoff game for a rapper’smixtape that is technically available for free though only accessible via a paid Apple Music subscription. Apple Music bought Chance The Rapper a commercial to promote Chance’s new mixtape and what is Chance doing? Letting a few tweets fly with an Apple Music link to his mixtape? Casually mentioning Apple Music on the many night show appearances he’s done this past week? Seemingly nothing? This is genius. Sure, I’ve seen commercials for albums before but mixtapes? The free promotional tool that artists use to gain exposure or what not? Never. What kinda hocus pocus brujeria is this?

Chance The Rapper is smart. He is making his sponsors work for their sponsorship. Most sponsors don’t like to work. They’ll slide you some free product and demand you tout their logo/signage and that’s just about it. Sponsors are typically very hands off. When I was putting events together, all I ever asked for was sponsored beverages, or space, or things that still required me to put a lot of work in because I knew I couldn’t get sponsors to put in work if I tried. But I was not Chance. Chance knows Apple Music is trying to get their subscribers up and catch up to Spotify. Chance knows his fans love to stream free things. I should’ve been a lot more like Chance. Or like LeBron.

“To persuade sponsors to pay, a firm needs its consumers to provide something to the sponsors in return.”

SMART PEOPLE FROM HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL

In December, LeBron James inked a landmark, lifetime endorsement deal with Nike. It is the largest deal the company has ever done and the first of its kind. It was rumored to be worth $500 Million until Kanye West rapped about the deal in his song “Facts” which suggests Nike actually gave Lebron $1 Billion “not to run away”. This week, Maverick Carter, Lebron’s business manager, hinted that it was actually worth even more than that. Of course, neither party will confirm or deny. But, coming from a person who currently has zero millions, either way it sounds like a win.

For the past several years, LeBron’s endorsement deals have been scrutinized and largely made fun of because they have been short stints. A year here, two years there. Never anything more than that. Similar to my relationships, maybe he was just waiting for “the one”?

The lessons learned this week are:

  1. Sponsors are partners and should act like it
  2. Short-term sponsorships are totally okay
  3. Sponsors don’t want you, they want your access to the people

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