How Roc Nation Sports Aims To Dominate The Sports Industry

November 10, 2020

iSPORTCONNECT spoke with Michael R. Yormark, President of Roc Nation Sports International and Alan Redmond, Head of Football of Roc Nation about their latest signings, global expansion and what makes them a ‘unique’ agency.

Michael R. Yormark oversees all operation of the agency’s International, spearheading rapid growth over the last 12 months. Before joining Roc Nation, Yormark held positions at top professional sports teams including the Florida Panthers, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Yankees.

Roc Nation Sports was built on the representation of US athletes. What is the point of differentiation for Roc Nation Sport as athlete representatives and what inspired the agency’s move into European football?

We started representing athletes 7 years ago in the US. Roc Nation was established and that was after we started our company 15 years ago. The reason we stared the sports agency is that we saw the success we were having around our music business. Our ability to help artists, not just on the stage but also off the stage from a 360 perspective and how we were able to effectively manage their entire career , we thought we could apply the same principles to help athletes in America. And the motivation behind that was that many of our founder ( Jay Z) friends’ who were athletes, at the tail end of their career when they looked back , they had no plan beyond their sporting career they had nothing to show for. They didn’t have financial resources, they didn’t have stability and they hadn’t planned appropriately for post career. And so Jay Z and his partner said, “You know what, we have to better prepare those athlete for life after sports.” And that was the guiding principle as to why we got into this business.

Today when you think about Roc Nation Sports, we are a boutique agency ( 360 ) but we are very strategic and selective in terms of the athletes that join our family. We look at ourselves as an aspirational brand. The goal has never been to be the biggest; it has been to be the best. To provide the best service , to provide the best support, to provide the best subject matter experts, to help guide these athletes throughout their careers and that truly is our point of differentiation. That’s what separates us from our competition. Athletes feel that right away, they feel that camaraderie, they feel that support, they feel that family environment that really doesn’t exist in other agencies.

We saw UK as an opportunity. We saw it as a natural growth from where we were in the US. I have been watching the European sport for some time and we had an opportunity to develop a relationship with Jerome Boateng from Bayern Munich and because of that relationship and the trips I was making from New York to Germany, I said there is an opportunity here . I started speaking with team executives and other agencies and talking to other athletes, footballers and what one question I said to them was “If you could establish the perfect agency to represent you, what would it look like?”. When I got the feedback from team executives and players specifically, their answers reminded me of Roc Nation. And we thought we could be that dream agency these people were looking for that does things differently, approaches the business differently and that protects and defends athletes and that represents them professionally and strategically. That’s what prompted us to establish an International office in London and the last year has been absolutely amazing.

What is the long term vision for Roc Nation Sports in Europe?

We want to achieve greatness for all our clients. We want to grow our business strategically. One of the reason we are different is because our success is based on the success of our clients. Lot of agencies base their success on the profits, how much money did we make this year and most agencies do. That has nothing to with our definition of success. Our definition of success is when our clients have smiles on their faces, when they are happy, when they achieve their life dreams and their goals and objectives because when our clients win, we ultimately win.

How would you reflect on Roc Nation Sports first year in the International business?

We haven’t allowed the pandemic to stop us. We are all hustlers and all of us at Roc Nation, have our story of overcoming challenges and that’s what we have done in 2020. We haven’t used the pandemic as an excuse to not be successful. We have achieved all our goals and objectives in 2020 and are exactly where we want to be. We have extended our business, we have signed footballers, we have entered the Rugby business, we are expanding into cricket, we got consulting clients and we got an incredible staff.

How are opportunities for a modern footballer different in 2020 compared to 5-10 years ago?

I believe because of the social media, athletes have a great opportunity to become global brands which wasn’t the case 10 years ago. They have a better opportunity to speak to their fans , engage with them at a level we have never seen before and most importantly, they are able to tell their stories and describe who they are as men and women. Growing up, I didn’t know much about athletes I idolised. Social media if used effectively and strategically, fans can learn more about athletes they idolise today than ever before.

And athletes and celebrities can actually motivate, inspire and create hope like never before. Marcus Rashford is a great example of how an athlete can use the power of social media platforms to talk about what’s important to them and to make a difference in the life of so many. But it has to be done strategically as social media can also be dangerous as what you put on social media, you can never get it back. You have to communicate the right kind of content.

Roc Nation boasts of great leadership, including a female CEO. Tell us more about the diversity.

That’s right. Our CEO is an incredible leader and quite inspirational. Our company reflects the beliefs of our CEO and our owners which are to ensure diversity, equality and inclusion. From a gender perspective, our company splits right in the middle and from a diversity perspective; our company reflects diversity at various highest level.

Alan Redmond who is a FA licensed agent and one of the most sought after agent in the industry recently joined Roc Nation Sports. Redmond brought his clients to Roc Nation Sports with a roster of 19 players such as on-loan Arsenal player Tyreece John-Jules, Hamburger SV winger Xavier Amaechi, Crystal Palace defender Nathan Ferguson, and Manchester City under 18 footballer Darko Gyabi among others.

Congratulations on the recruitment of Wilfried Zaha. Tell us what attracted Roc Nation to him, and why is he a good fit for the agency?

I think on a very obvious front, he is a player I have admired for a very long time. I think he is a player, from purely stylistic perspective was a bit ahead of his time. I think few years ago there was an expectation from players who played in his position to just be the defender and cross the ball and I think when people play to win, that’s what’s expected of them. Now that football is much suited to his style of playing, he should have a more prominent place. Wilfried is also a high level performer. He and his sister also run an orphanage in the Ivory Coast and he has been donating ten percent of his salary to charity for last 4 years. Therefore, he is obviously socially aware. He has got a really ethical foundation and when you look at what he has done and what his life journey has been, he could identify also with Roc Nation and our leadership and their journeys. We are a minority owned company.

You recently joined Roc Nation as Head of Football – what attracted you to role?

I liked that the owners have a very strategic vision. I was working independently and when I moved to Roc Nation, 19 players moved with me. I guess what I liked was, we have subject matter experts and the level of expertise they get at Roc Nation will be unparalleled. I think internally we have developed a sense of who is a Roc Nation player and who is not.

You manage the agency’s strategic approach to football representation – what is Roc Nation looking to achieve in this space and how are you approaching football representation?

We have two layers to this – firstly, we want to add important first team players who are in keeping with us as a company but not in huge numbers. The second layer is – we want to recreate the generation of emerging talent coming through. We are quite targeted in what we do and we do our homework before we approach any player/client. When we approach a client, it’s not speculative. We know we want the client.