ROC Nation rides alliance into soccer

By Liz Mullen, Staff Writer

Published July 27, 2015

Roc Nation’s agreement to represent Bayern Munich defender Boateng, who played for the German national team that won the World Cup in 2014, is part of an exclusive strategic partnership with Starwatch Artist Management Sports. Under the terms of the agreement, Roc Nation Sports will help market athletes represented by SAM Sports, a division of Starwatch Entertainment, which is based in Munich.

In addition to Boateng, some of Starwatch’s clients include winger Arjen Robben, who plays for Bayern Munich and the Netherlands national team, and 19-year-old center back Jonathan Tah, who plays for Bayer Leverkusen and is the captain of Germany’s under-19 team. Roc Nation is focusing on representing Boateng both for marketing and other opportunities, although that focus could broaden to other players, executives for both companies said. SAM Sports co-managing director Sven Mueller, along with co-managing director Christian Nerlinger, a former professional German midfielder and former general manager of Bayern Munich, represent Boateng, who came to the U.S. in late June, signed with Roc Nation and did a media tour.

Asked the reasons for the partnership with Roc Nation Sports, Mueller said, “Branding, content, media, cross promotion and sales, the whole international network power of both corporations combined for the good of our clients rosters.”  Other U.S. companies marketing international soccer players in North America include Wasserman Media Group, which represents 500 soccer players worldwide; Shine Entertainment, which represents about 150 soccer players; and CAA Sports, which represents Cristiano Ronaldo and others.

Mueller indicated that the two companies could be involved in creating content and combining sports and entertainment events. Links to entertainment are just one of the similarities that they share. SAM Sports, like Roc Nation Sports, is a relatively young agency. Starwatch Entertainment, which owns its own record label, as well as partnering with other music labels, just launched the sports division in April 2014, and Starwatch itself is a subsidiary of ProSiebenSat.1 Group, one of the largest independent media companies in Europe.

Music company Roc Nation launched Roc Nation Sports in April 2013. Neither Mueller nor Michael Yormark, Roc Nation’s president and chief of branding and strategy, would discuss the financial details, but typically such a partnership between agencies involves a split on representation and contract negotiation fees. The partnership between Roc Nation and SAM Sports came about after 10 months of talks between the companies. Roc Nation and ProSiebenSat.1 had relationships in the past, Mueller and Yormark said. “We had been talking to Starwatch about a variety of things, but as we started talking, this was a natural entry point to develop a working relationship. It seemed to be the best fit,” Yormark said. Boateng has Nike and JBL headphones as endorsements now. “He likes fashion,” Yorkmark said, adding that Roc Nation may also target automotive and beverage as endorsement categories.

Dario Brignole, founder and CEO of Shine Entertainment, said teaming with a German company is a smart move for a U.S. firm trying to get a foothold in soccer in Europe because the country produces great soccer players. “If you want to be in soccer,” Brignole said, “you want to be in England, Spain or Germany.”