Drake and LeBron James bring new sports content brand to Canada

Drake and LeBron James are bringing the sports content brand Uninterrupted to Canada with the help of longtime Canadian sports media exec Scott Moore as the company’s first CEO and Vinay Virmani as chief content officer.

Launched in 2015 by James and his business manager Maverick Carter, Uninterrupted is described as an “athlete empowerment brand.” Content is controlled by the athletes, with an emphasis on their lives away from sports, and delivered without “intermediaries.”

James explained his motivation at a recent ESPYs party. He said he was “sick and tired of every time I do an interview, that whatever I say is twisted up, and it is always interrupted, and they only put out what they want to put out,” he said.

“We’re here to help the athletes,” said Virmani, a Canadian film producer, director and actor. “We’re here to complement their storytelling ability. It’s not journalistic in that way, but it’s putting the athlete in the driver’s seat as content creators, which is a really big movement that we’re seeing across sports.”

“There are many modern athletes that have something to say, whether it’s about politics, about their passions, music, fashion, whatever,” said Moore. “And then they’re really not given that opportunity much because their teams want them to talk about the game… Some of these athletes just want to get their own voice out there.”

Uninterrupted Canada has already signed early deals with Toronto Raptors star Serge Ibaka and former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman—who is appearing in a motivational series about undersized athletes that leverages his personal “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart” branding. A series on athletes and entrepreneurialism is in the works through a deal with Shopify, and the company is also working on content with well-known NHL stars.

While Canadian hockey culture has always been more reserved and less outspoken then other major North American sports leagues, that is changing, said Moore. “Hockey players want to be just as much a brand as the basketball players and baseball players,” he said.

Moore, of course, knows hockey and hockey culture well. He spent four years as head of CBC sports, leaving in 2010 to lead all broadcast at Rogers—where he was considered instrumental in the company winning NHL broadcast rights in 2013.

He was focused solely on Sportsnet and the NHL at Rogers from 2014 until his departure last fall. As CEO of Uninterrupted Canada, he’ll lead business operations and development, as well as brand partnerships.

While these partnerships could be as straightforward as pre-roll, the goal is to assemble programs that are more ambitious in nature, said Moore. “I would like to do something that is a little more integrated and try some new formats,” he said.

Branding within Uninterrupted content in the U.S. has included “Brought to you by” sponsorships, as well as branded content series like “Guard Down” for Gillette Skinguard, where athletes chat while shaving.

As for Drake, he will use his significant media presence and vast social reach to promote content, but could become more hands on for projects he’s particularly interested in, said Virmani.

“We continue to look for new, important ways to invest in and build our culture. Uninterrupted is totally changing how athletes and fans connect,” said Drake’s business partner, Adel “Future the Prince” Nur, in a release. “Drake understood the power of what LeBron and Maverick are building and the potential to do something special in Canada where there is real understanding and love for our athletes.”

David Brown