The Toronto Raptors Clean Up, Thanks To Drake

If there’s one thing that Canadian basketball fans can’t stand, it’s the sight of lint. Just ask Grammy Award-winning rapper Drake. In April, the reigning prince of Canada’s hip-hop and basketball realms was famously caught scrubbing his sweatpants with a lint roller while seated courtside during Game 2 of the NBA playoff match between the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors. Mocking images and memes of Drake’s public display of fastidious tidiness quickly went viral, with the rapper also getting in on the joke by posting an anti-lint pic on his Instagram account.

Had the lint-rolling incident occurred under different circumstances or with different players, chances are good that it would have likely passed without much notice; however, as global brand ambassador for the Raptors, Drake’s international visibility and his less-than-thuggish reputation in an industry that banks on street cred might have helped fuel some of the public ridicule.

But one man’s haterade is another man’s marketing opportunity.

Rather than succumb to the snickers, the Raptors quickly turned the mockery on its ear—and to their advantage—by partnering with Procter & Gamble’s Bounce Fresh to create and distribute 1,200 limited-edition Drake OVO-branded lint-rollers at Game 5 of the playoffs. Brands such as Swiffer and Ikea Canada got in on the squeaky-clean action as well, and suddenly, Raptors fans could be unabashedly and unapologetically lint-free.

As marketing stunts go, this was a pretty savvy one, especially considering the fact that the first Drake-inspired lint roller was originally created as fan art and not as the real deal. Despite the imminently meme-able, oftentimes-hokey nature of Drake’s persona, it’s tough to hate on the guy, largely because he always seems to be in on the joke, too. Say what you will about Drake’s music or his swag (or sometimes lack thereof), but the dude can sell. His involvement with the Raptors has proven to be lucrative and profile-raising, adding excitement and interest to the NBA’s only Canadian franchise.

While there’s nothing new about the marriage between hip-hop and basketball, the new generation of music superstars who have aligned themselves with teams has opened up new marketing and sponsorship opportunities. And Drake appears to be leading the pack, appealing to a wide spectrum of sports fans: black and white, young and old. Donald Sterling should take note.

Earlier this year, at the Raptor’s Drake night, two pairs of special-edition, Drake-designed OVO Air Jordan Retro 10s were given to fans, and subsequently a pair was auctioned on eBay, reportedly fetching $100,000. Today, limited-edition Drake OVO lint rollers are selling on eBay for north of $50K. Who’s having the last laugh now?
It was either Aristotle or Notorious B.I.G. who once famously opined, “Haters gonna hate,” and Drake and the Raptors have definitely taken a page from that playbook.

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