UnitedMasters founder and CEO Steve Stoute and his creative, data and cultural agency Translation have been hired as brand consultants for the New York Knicks.
According to a press release, Stoute and Translation will help “elevate” the pro basketball franchise’s brand by developing campaigns and programs that will strengthen its connection to music and culture. Stoute will additionally support the Knicks executive team in “branding and fan engagement efforts.”
“Madison Square Garden and the Knicks are two of the most iconic and storied brands, and they resonate well beyond sports,” said Stoute, who founded Translation in 2004 and serves as its CEO, in a statement. “It’s an honor to partner with these brands, and together we will be able to showcase their rich history, legendary personalities and iconic moments. We are going to bring new, creative ideas and produce content that encapsulates Madison Square Garden and the Knicks, building upon their vast reputations in order to further connect with fans.”
In his own statement, New York Knicks president Steve Mills pointed out Translation’s history of elevating brands “beyond the court or field,” while Madison Square Garden Company president Andy Lustgarten said Stoute and his team will help forge a “deeper connection between our incredibly loyal fans and our team.”
Translation’s recent work includes partnerships with the NBA, NFL, Nike, Brooklyn Nets, AT&T, Anheuser-Busch and State Farm, whose “Cliff Paul” ad campaign became a staple of pro and college basketball broadcasts between 2012 and 2017 (it even got its own sneaker). The agency also helped craft Budweiser’s successful “Made in America” campaign.
The Knicks organization has been plagued by controversy over the last several years, much of it centering around team owner James Dolan. That includes a long-running feud with former Knicks power forward Charles Oakley, who in 2017 was arrested after getting into a verbal altercation with Dolan during a home game. Oakley — who tweeted favorably of Stoute’s hiring on Sunday — was later charged with five counts of misdemeanor assault, harassment and criminal trespassing for engaging in a physical scuffle with security guards — all of which were later dismissed.
Stoute, who previously served in executive roles at Sony Music and Interscope Geffen A&M, has been touted for his ability to integrate the worlds of music and sports. In October 2018, UnitedMasters signed a global partnership with the NBA in which the league agreed to license music exclusively from UnitedMasters artists for its digital and social channels. Earlier this month, the music company partnered with the NBA on a new Apple Music playlist that will highlight independent and emerging hip-hop artists. As part of the deal, future game highlights on the league’s digital and social media platforms will be soundtracked with music from the playlist.