Take Me Out To The Brand Game: Celebrity Sports Investors
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Some Celebrities Aren’t Content With Just Box Seats And Playoff Tickets - They Want To Be Team Owners
The players scoring touchdowns, hitting 3-pointers, and breaking home-run records aren’t the only star power in the sports-world scene. Of course, we know our favorite celebrities are often seen courtside at a Lakers game or dancing on the dugout. But many celebrities - we take that back, a ton of celebrities - have decided to actually invest in the teams themselves, sometimes as fans, sometimes as businessmen. Regardless, when you have the money to buy anything you want, why not buy yourself a sports team?
Hollywood Branded looks at celebrity sports investors and how their investments affect their personal brand as well as the team’s.
Flea, bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, pulled this move during an LA Dodgers play-off game
Sports Legends That Turn Into Owners
When you’ve dedicated your life to a game, and the time has finally come to retire, it’s impossible for some players to just walk away. Many stars, especially two Dream Team legends, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, remained in the game with sports team investments after their days playing were over.
Magic Johnson played point guard for the LA Lakers for 13 seasons. After his HIV diagnosis, the Olympic athlete slowed down - but not for long. Among his various investments, Johnson was a part-owner of the LA Lakers for several years and as some rumors have it, he may be looking to buy in again. On top of this, Johnson and his group of investors own a portion of the LA Dodgers as well as the LA Sparks, a professional WNBA team. His involvement has garnered national attention and his involvement in the LA Sparks has increased their exposure massively.
Aside from Michael Jordan’s Olympic performance and, of course, being considered the greatest basketball player of all time (or from his starring role in Space Jam for a few of us), MJ is best-known as the all-star member of Chicago Bulls for 13 seasons (he played another two with the Washington Wizards). Just like his Dream Team teammate Magic, MJ couldn’t walk away from the game after retirement. He decided to purchase a share in the Charlotte Bobcats along with BET founder Robert L. Johnson and musician Nelly. Instantly, he became a huge part of the brand and its marketing. One of his biggest accomplishments was renaming the team the Charlotte Hornets in 2014 and he remains a huge part of their marketing and business operations to this day.
Sometimes celebrities buy stakes in teams simply because it’s a team they’ve grown up with, perhaps even been lifelong fans of. Take Will Smith for example. No one can forget that he is “West Philadelphia born and raised” and that he spent many a day “chillin’ out maxin’, relaxin’ all cool and all, shootin’ some b-ball outside the school.” Now that you have that song stuck in your head, it should come as no surprise to you that Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith own a small portion of the Philadelphia 76ers. And who doesn’t love the smiling face of Will Smith cheering for his hometown team?
Another hometown hero that purchased a part of his favorite team is Brooklyn native Jay-Z, who owned a portion of the Brooklyn Nets up until 2013. He relinquished his ownership to pursue a career as a certified sports agent, but when he was part owner of the Nets, he worked tirelessly with the Nets as a team as well as a brand, even relocating them to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. He had an immeasurable effect on the team’s branding and exposure.
Joining the loyal hometown owners is Michelle Williams, Chicago-native and former member of Destiny’s Child. She purchased a portion of the WNBA team Chicago Sky in 2006.
For The Love Of The Game
Some celebrities buy sports teams because they simply love, love, love the game itself. What other reason would there be for Bill Murray to own four different minor league baseball teams? He’s just an avid fan and is very often sighted at games all over the country!
Drew Carey, stand-up comedian best known for hosting Whose Line Is It Anyway? and The Price is Right, is a huge fan of soccer (or football as they call it across the pond). The funny-guy is a part-owner and huge fan of the Seattle Sounders FC, an American professional soccer club.
David Letterman is a big fan of auto-racing and the IndyCar Series… so much so, that he purchased part of the Rahal Racing team, subsequently changing its name to “Rahal Letterman Racing.”
The Miami Dolphins Effect
There is no other team out there with more celebrity part-owners than the Miami Dolphins NFL team. Maybe it’s the allure of the hot and thriving city of Miami, a favorite celeb destination, or maybe Jim Carrey just made everyone fell in love with the team’s flippered mascot after Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, but whatever reason it may be, celebrities love the Dolphins.
Jennifer Lopez and her ex-husband bought a small portion of the Miami Dolphins and despite their divorce in 2011, they both still share partial ownership. Among other celebs who own part of the Miami team are Gloria and Emilio Estefan, and famous sisters Venus and Serena Williams. Fergie also recently invested in part-ownership of the team.
And, of course, there’s always good old Jimmy Buffet. The beach monger and chart-topper is another of the big names that own a stake in the Miami Dolphins. Who can blame him though? You drink as many margaritas and purchase any marine-themed team you like, sir.
Rockers and Arena Football
Arena football is a type of gridiron football played indoors. It’s a part of the American Football League and apparently has been drawing some rock star eyes. The band Kiss purchased an emerging expansion team rebranded by the rock and rollers as the “LA Kiss.” Jon Bon Jovi seems to have similar interest as well - he secured the rights to an Arena Football League franchise back in 2004 and was an owner until the fold of the AFL in 2009. The team, however, is back up and running thanks to a 2011 revival by Ron Jaworski.
Ventures Outside the United States
The purchasing of sports teams is certainly not limited to American celebrities by any means. Elton John owned a part of the Waterford United FC, a soccer (football) club he has been a fan of since he was a little boy. Currently, he serves as the club’s joint Honorary Life President.
Russell Crowe also has foreign sports interests in his native land of Australia (well, to be fair, he was born in New Zealand but has spent most of his life in Australia). He owns the South Sydney Rabbitohs, a rugby team that he takes a special interest in. He is often seen at games and practices and is a very influential figure for the team.
The Importance Of Celebrity Sports Investments
Celebrities have loved buying things since there have been such things as “celebrities” - and sports teams are no exception to the rule. While some go all out and purchase stakes in NFL or NBA teams, others take a larger role in smaller ventures. Their motives are all different, but there is no denying that celebrity involvement brings the spotlight to sports teams.
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