Rihanna and the Ospreys. Shakira and Rodney Parade? These iconic musicians have more in common with Welsh rugby than you might think.
That is because the United Rugby Championship (URC), the new competition featuring 16 teams from Wales, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and South Africa, has joined forces with Roc Nation, a world-leading entertainment company.
Founded by Jay-Z in 2008, the business has offices in New York, London and Los Angeles and represents a host of globally recognised singers – Shakira and Rihanna included – and actors as well as sporting superstars such as footballers Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.
Now Roc Nation is branching out to rugby with what the URC announced on Wednesday as a “strategic consulting partnership” between the two.
The URC starts in September, an evolution of the Pro14 into a 16-team league format, adding the top four teams in South Africa to four from Wales and Ireland as well as two each from Scotland and Italy.
In collaborating with Roc Nation, the league hopes to “drive innovation, community and integrity, reaching new audiences”.
A URC statement added: “Roc Nation will assist in the development of a Player Advisory Group, offering players a seat at the table to voice opinion and share their views on the promotion and marketing of the game.”
The partnership has certainly given the URC the kind of glitzy promotion it could scarcely have dreamed of in its previous guises dating back to the inaugural Celtic League in 2001.
Wednesday’s promotional video was soundtracked by Jay-Z’s Encore, with footage of DJ Khaled and other Roc Nation stars juxtaposed with match action from Wales, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and South Africa.
It is not often Rihanna and Justin Tipuric share the same stage.
But then again it is not often that Welsh rugby finds itself in the company of some of the world’s most famous people.
“Roc Nation is at the cutting edge of sports, entertainment and culture, and we believe there’s no better partner to help us reach new audiences and develop new experiences for fans,” said Martin Anayi, chief executive of the URC.
“We are looking forward to this partnership helping us achieve our ambitions of becoming a strong, purpose-led league where players and fans can have a voice and an influence.
“With an unparalleled network in the world of entertainment and a track record in building strong connections between sporting heroes and their communities, this is an opportunity to build towards the ambitious future we have for the United Rugby Championship.
“We believe that rugby holds a unique inspirational quality and alongside Roc Nation our goal is to inspire the next generation of players and fans from all walks of life to keep growing the game.”
The URC will work specifically with Roc Nation Sports, a sub-division of Roc Nation launched in 2013.
Jay-Z is a former owner of the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, and the current Roc Nation Sports roster features numerous leading basketball, baseball and American football players.
Michael Yormark, co-chief executive of Roc Nation Unified, said: “Roc Nation is thrilled to embark on this unique partnership with the United Rugby Championship, as they kickstart an exciting new chapter in their history, guided by a clear blueprint for success.
“Leveraging our subject-matter experts across our international offices, we are confident that the United Rugby Championship will continue to attract some of the biggest names in world rugby with its modern and collaborative approach to player management and redefine the concept of live entertainment on and off the field.
“Roc Nation is excited to be on this journey with the league.”