Sports unite fans from different cultural and religious backgrounds. Fans share the love of the game and relate to their favorite teams. A sports team like The Toronto Raptors, entertain people and fans with compatible interests. As a sports fan myself from a sports-oriented family, I think sports are a major part of popular culture. One can follow and become engaged with their favorite player, their style of play and stats, as well as how successful the team may be. That player can become a hero and inspiration to some and this can be life-changing. Other aspects of fan culture in basketball is ‘fantasy basketball’ leagues that fans mainly use to bet with friends on players. Fan culture in sport becomes a lifestyle and part of an individual’s identity, as individuals go out at night with friends to watch a live game at a bar and participate in the fantasy league. Our fan identity is constructed through our family ties, family interaction, and our peers. For instance, I’ve been influenced to like hockey since my family has shared this fan culture.
People take time out their lives to sit and watch the next game or the “Big” game. Fans know when their team plays and when they play a rival team. The Toronto Raptors NBA team brings together both popular culture and fan culture. Yes, there are avid Raptors sports fans who get into the players and team. However, Drake the rapper who is a Toronto native has impacted the Raptors NBA team in a way that puts Toronto on the map in other regions of the NBA. For those who love sports as much as they love music, a huge star like Drake makes a cultural impact as a global ambassador to his hometown team the Raptors. The impact of a celebrity in popular culture attracts more fan attention for more than just the sport. The Raptor marketing plays to this with music and promotion that makes it cool beyond the game and players.
The sport I am committed to as a fan is hockey, however, recently the rise in popularity for the Raptors has influenced me to keep in touch with how the team is doing. I was influenced by Drake’s impact on the Raptors as I was interested in hearing about the game vibe, young fans, and the music. It is also interesting because the fan based is truly multi-cultural and young unlike the more traditional fans of the Maple Leafs. All this drew me into not only fan culture but to an overall pop culture as both sport and artist play off each other.
Drake’s album “Views from the 6ix” just happened to drop on the day of the Raptors game 6 against the ‘Pacers’. Was this a coincidence or was Drake using sports fans and music fans to buy his album? The image and positioning of the Raptors Basketball have been hugely altered because of Drake. The team gets more social attention when he attends games, as some fans enjoy seeing both the game and Drake. They created a night called “Drake Night” where Drake himself announced the starting lineup for the game and had various giveaways. As Drake is the global ambassador for the Raptors, he is a key ‘player’ for the Raptors.
The Raptors have built on the cultural aspect as they have branded themselves as #WeTheNorth since they are the only Canadian team, which is geographical in the North. This brings together Canadians from all backgrounds to support the team and Canadian basketball as a whole. When I am walking around Waterloo or Laurier campus fans are visibly wearing the Raptors apparel. On the bigger platform of Toronto, everywhere sports are present, and the slogan ‘We The North’ is on huge billboards, buses, in malls, shirts, hats and on flags. The presence of fans wearing Raptors apparel has been brought to my attention in my daily life. Basketball in Toronto has a large fan base, as well, made up of the real sports fan and Drake fans. They also campaign to Toronto fans and the six different boroughs of the ‘6ix’. This, in turn, brands the Toronto community and creates collectiveness.
The Raptors and Drake have created this image of Toronto being this new hip and cool multicultural and cosmopolitan city in Canada. Both sport and pop culture have combined to help make this happen.