What Is ROKiT? The Sports Sponsorship Strategy Built On You Asking That Question
On December 13, the Houston Rockets hosted the Los Angeles Lakers with the biggest brand names in the arena being LeBron James and James Harden. But there was another brand in the Toyota Center that was involved in almost every component of the game, whether it be on the court or at the bar.
That brand is ROKiT and its parent company ROK Brands. ROKiT is absolutely a natural fit for a sports team named the Rockets. What is most atypical about its partnership with the NBA franchise is that ROKiT is not yet selling its flagship product — a line of cellphones that range from $35 to $275 and feature NASA patented technology, life services like roadside assistence and telemedicine, and a 3D screen that actually features compelling content without the need to be viewed with any special glasses.
If you ask a random Rockets fan what ROKiT is or what it sells, you will receive a blank face.
Yet, there is a growing number of fans who recognize the name because of its inclusion on all in-game Rockets jerseys
ROKiT became a sponsor of the Rockets just prior to the start of the 2018-19 NBA season. It also has a partnership in place with the Los Angeles Chargers, brokered right before the beginning of the current NFL season. Each arrangement is a two-year deal with the possibility to extend, and ROKiT’s ownership is not only planning extensions but already contemplating the idea of making a play for the naming rights deal of the to-be-built new Chargers stadium.
ROKiT loves the concept of sports sponsorship.
It also has a deal in place with Chargers safety Derwin James and is in talks with other individual athletes about putting together partnership deals. Teams will continue to be targeted, with a preference for basketball, football and hockey, and even NASCAR and Indy Car are on the table.
Clinton Ehrlich, ROKiT’s Chief Marketing Officer, understands that his company’s marketing strategy is different from most other companies who engage in sports sponsorship, but he is content with his company spending before it even has a product to market. He is convinced that sports fans, due to their nature of being obsessive, fanatic supporters of their respective teams, are a great target for exposing a brand name like ROKiT that will eventually sell phones, but does not indicate such in its name alone.
Ehrlich was in a great mood on December 13, because not only did the Rockets handily conquer the Lakers, but the Chargers put together a miraculous comeback against their division rival Kansas City Chiefs to win in dramatic fashion. If the Chargers are able to host any playoff games in 2018, then ROKiT should receieve extra exposure as it has naming rights to the field at the StubHub Center (which will be rebranded to Dignity Health Sports Park).
It is very clear that ROKiT wants to make a splash and is not afraid to open up its wallet.
It partnered with the Rockets and Chargers before it even had a product to sell, and justifies the spend based on the fact that those opportunities may not have been present if it waited until true launch, which is expected in the United States in March 2019.
Meanwhile, ROKiT, which will sell unlocked Android operating system phones with two SIM cards and WiFi calling, is building its infrastructure abroad. ROK Brands Chairman & Founder Jonathan Kendrick says that his company is in the process of installing WiFi capacity in public areas throughout India to allow its 1.3 billion people, many of whom do not have Internet connectivity, to make free WiFi calls through ROKiT phones. The company plans to make a big push in India and eventually China, leveraging the Rockets’ status as “China’s Team,” even well after Yao Ming retired from the NBA.
ROKiT strictly cares about exposure emanating from sports sponsorship at the moment.
The company logo is featured on the Rockets’ uniform as part of the NBA’s test program that limits such jersey patch deals to three years in length. ROKiT is cognizant that a lot of the attention it receives is due to people sharing photos of Rockets jerseys and identifying the ROKiT patch, even if in a negative tone. The company is fine with that as long as people remember the name.
But what may be most interesting about ROKiT is that its parent company, chaired by the passionate Kendrick who is eager to show off the 3D content that his phones display, is much more than a mobile phone hardware company.
ROKiT began almost five years ago with the goal of becoming a mobile access provider and music streaming service.
It was not so long ago that it pivoted into the hardware side of phones, creation of 3D content through the ownership of production facilities and … alcohol beverages.
At the Lakers vs. Rockets game, the owners of ROKiT were not pushing phones, but introducing a brand new Bandero terrace with models handing out hors d’oeuvres and Bandero mixed cocktails, and a Mariachi Band that could only be drowned out by a Houston Rockets marching band traipsing around the arena. Bandero is the brand name of a tequila company ROK Brands owns. There is also a Bogart’s Lounge with Bogart’s Vodka, Rum, Whiskey and Gin, another brand owned by the co-founders of ROKiT. Additionally, ROK Brands has acquired a brand called ABK Beer, which is brewed in Bavaria from Hallertau hops and grains. How many cellphone manufacturers are also pushing alcohol beverages?
It does not end there. ROK Brands is also in the business of creating and disctributing ROK Energy drinks. If you take a stroll through the Toyota Center, you may not notice it, but ROK Brands has its footprint almost everywhere.
If there is a good sports sponsorship to be found, then co-founders Kendrick and John Paul DeJoria (who created Paul Mitchell and Patron Tequilla) want to hear about it. In the meantime, they have their hands full getting a meaningful mobile phone product to launch on time in order to better exploit those sponsorship deals already in place.