Jay-Z’s 5 Biggest Corporate Collaborations
Just two days before the release of his cohort Kanye West's new album Yeezus, Brooklyn icon Jay-Z slightly stole Ye's thunder by taking over halftime of Game 5 of the NBA Finals to announce his forthcoming album Magna Carta Holy Grail via a 3-minute black and white trailer. Though details about the project have been scant—aside from expected features from producers Timbaland, Pharrell, Swizz Beatz and Rick Rubin, who all made appearances in the trailer—the hype around the project will definitely continue to build up until its release on July 4th.
What's exciting about the album, aside from the music (obviously), is that Jay's also created a new way to sell albums with Magna Carta. In an exclusive partnership with Samsung, Jay will be offering the first million copies of the LP to Samsung Galaxy users—Samsung pre-purchased the million copies to ensure their exclusivity—before wide-releasing it. As record label old heads scratched their heads and wondered about ways to compete with such a deal, Jay slyly tweeted on Monday, "If 1 Million records gets SOLD and billboard doesnt report it, did it happen? Ha. #newrules." Whether initial reports that Jay received $20 million for the partnership are true or not, from a commercial standpoint, Magna Carta marks another genius move on Hov's end.
To celebrate Jay's business mind and ingenuity, here we took a look back at some of his most lucrative corporate collabs, with the likes of Reebok, Budweiser and HP. Click through for more details on each deal.
Reebok - S. Carter Sneaker Collection
In the first in a series of innovative corporate moves, in 2003 Jay became the first non-athlete to release an exclusive shoe via an endorsement deal with athletics brand Reebok. The line, dubbed the S. Carter Collection, hit shelves in late 2003, and was reportedly the fastest-selling shoe in Reebok's history, in no small part because of Jay's vocal promotion of the shoe via his songs and videos. Despite initially being marketed as a basketball sneaker, the casual shoe—which imitated Gucci sneakers from a prior era—went on to be adored by sneakerheads, hypebeasts and lifestyle enthusiasts. After releasing only two shoes (and many color-ways), Hov and Reebok amicably ended their exclusive partnership.
New Jersey Nets
Jay-Z realized an unlikely dream in 2004 by acquiring a percentage of famed NBA franchise the New Jersey Nets. Despite supporting the team from the outset of his ownership bid—he eventually went on to claim a 0.15% stake in the franchise—Jay was instrumental in moving the team to a brand-new Barclays Center stadium in his hometown of Brooklyn, with some help from majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov and real estate developer Bruce Ratner.
In 2012, construction on the stadium was completed and Jay capped off his successful partnership with the team with a string of eight headlining concerts at the just-opened arena, setting the tone for history to be made in Hov's hometown borough. Since then, Jay has gone on to sell his stake in the team in light of Roc Nation's foray into sports management (he is not allowed to own a corporation that manages NBA players while owning a part of an NBA team), but seems to have left the organization on good terms.
In a statement about the split, he said, "Being a member of the Nets organization surpassed some of my greatest ambitions. It was never about an investment; it was about the NETS and Brooklyn. My job as an owner is over but as a fan it has just begun. I'm a Brooklyn Net forever."
Hewlett-Packard - "Hands" Campaign
Jay and publicly-traded tech company Hewlett-Packard's collaboration started with a quirky and futuristic 60-second commercial that featured a portion of Jay's torso on-screen, as he waves his hands through the different facets of his day-to-day responsibilities, showing off the multitude of things he can do on an HP laptop. It was a brilliant commercial not only for the visual gag, but also because it helped a relatively-flailing HP straddle the sacred ground between interesting and useful. With some help from Jay's voice (and his underlying cosign), HP quickly became a brand that people cared about again. The brand continued the 'Hands' campaign with commercials featuring Olympian Shaun White and billionaire Mark Cuban, both of whom added their own flair to the series. Still, Jay's initial 'Hands' commercial is what got people talking, and essentially marks the moment that HP became relevant again.
Live Nation - Roc Nation
After releasing nine albums via a partnership between his own imprint Roc-A-Fella Records and pioneering hip-hop label Def Jam, in 2008 Jay decided to shop himself around. As the world started to guess where Hov would end up and rumors started swirling about who would land him on their roster, it turned out that he was working on building an entirely new brand (after splitting with former partners Biggs and Dame Dash) with some help from a sponsor.
At the time, burgeoning live-show conglomerate Live Nation was fresh off a major deal with pop queen Madonna, whom they offered a $120 million in exchange for an exclusivity deal on her live shows as well as new music. Not long after the ink dried, they approached Jay with an even larger sum—a reported $150 million—which gave them leverage to acquire a percentage of any recording, touring or merchandising that involved Jay-Z.
The result of the partnership became Roc Nation, an all-inclusive marketing agency, publishing company, management agency and record label (which is distributed via Sony). The first project Jay released via Roc Nation was 2009's The Blueprint 3. To date, Roc Nation has signed 12 major artists (including Jay Electronica, Willow Smith and J. Cole), and has shown signs of further growth, forming a sports management division in Roc Nation Sports last year.
Budweiser - Made In America Festival
Following in the footsteps of major music festival promoters before him, in 2012 Jay-Z decided to curate a festival of his own. The result is the Philly-based Made In America Festival. In its first year, Made In America—which is sponsored and presented by historic American beer brand Budweiser—took place over Labor Day weekend and featured performances from Drake, Run-DMC, Skrillex and Hov himself. With close to 80,000 fans in attendance throughout the weekend, the fest's first year was a glowing success. This year, the festival will return to Philly's Benjamin Franklin Parkway from August 31st to September 1st and will feature performances from Beyonce, Public Enemy, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar.