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How Drake Partnered With ESPN for “Certified Lover Boy”

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Drake at NBA All-Star 2016 (Elsa/Getty Images)

by Dan Runcie

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Drake’s latest album, Certified Lover Boy, dropped on Friday. It’s a great opportunity to break down Drake’s promotional tactics (specifically with ESPN), Drake’s memes, and the streaming records that keep getting broken.

Certified SportsCenter Boy. ESPN went deep with CLB coverage:

-August 27: cryptic announcement on SportsCenter that CLB drops on Sep 3
-Sep 2: ESPN.com article on how LeBron James and Kevin Durant are waiting for CLB
-Sep 3: ESPN.com article on how athletes are excited the album is out
-@ESPN: 4 social media posts
-@SportsCenter: 2 posts

The Worldwide Leader in Sports is out here sharing tweets from DJ Akademiks and creating graphics of Drake as Thanos from The Avengers movies! Drake had ESPN posting out here like an Instagram hip-hop account.

Today, ESPN announced that Drake will take over music duties for Monday Night Football. Drake will feature his own music and select music from other artists.

It’s another example of major artists partnering with major corporations to distribute their albums. I would love to see the promotional agreement between ESPN and OVO Sound.

The meme-ification of Aubrey Graham. For years, Drake has leaned into his ability to create memes. The “Hotline Bling” music video and Views album cover were made to be turned into spoofs.

Drake did the same thing with the CLB album cover and its 16 pregnant emojis. The same is true for the Way 2 Sexy,” featuring Future, Young Thug, and Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard in a Backstreet Boys-esque music video. The Kawhi feature was guaranteed to drive traffic with the sports sites and blogs.

Every media impression is an opportunity for an “Oh wow, did you see this?” buzz-worthy and sharable moment made to generate earned media and more hype for the album

The cryptic ESPN announcement drove even more coverage about the album, especially given the speculation that ESPN was “hacked” (it wasn’t, but the fact that some people think he did helped its case!).

The CLB billboards released in each city did the same. In Houston, the CLB billboard said “HEY HOUSTON, THE HOMETOWN HERO IS ON CLB.” As @ DragonFlyJonez called out, it’s like 15 ppl this could be. The speculation drove more interest. (The hometown hero ended up being Travis Scott.)

Drake’s tactics make an older music video like “Pop That” feel like an old relic. The 2012 video is a posse cut with four rappers, including Drake, living large at a pool party. It’s well-made, but there are no memes or buzzworthy moments from “Pop That.” Rappers have done music videos like that for years. They don’t register in an era where artists fight for attention from TikTok, YouTube, Fortnite, and countless other attention-grabbing platforms.

Streaming records broken. The 21-track album has already broken streaming records on Spotify and Apple Music, and will likely break more in the next few weeks. But that says more about Spotify’s growth than it does about Drake. The same thing happened for Scorpion (2018), Views (2016), and other projects Drake has released in the streaming era.

The default comparison has been the Billboard charts, but even that has comparison challenges given the changes with album bundling and other tactics.

In an era with more data than ever, it’s harder to quantify the impact. Even if CLB has more streams or more Billboard “album-equivalent units” than Views and Scorpion, it doesn’t tell the full story of its magnitude. But maybe it’s an opportunity for more subjective debates. “Which album is a classic?” Who is in your Top 5? And which album is bigger than the other?” Hip-hop ain’t hip-hop without the debates, right?

For more on this listen to the HipHopRaisedMe podcast with DJ Semtex where we talked about CLB, Donda, Kendrick Lamar’s upcoming album, and more.

Dan Runcie

Dan Runcie

Founder of Trapital

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