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Back in the Premier League, Leeds turn to Jay-Z agency to grow

LONDON — Returning to the Premier League after a 16-year absence, Leeds are now being assisted by the sports and entertainment marketing agency founded by Jay-Z to develop the brand and global appeal of the northern England club.

“Watching the team on the field is extraordinarily fun,” Michael Yormark, president of Roc Nation Sports International, told The Associated Press. “It’s great entertainment.”

While Leeds collected just 10 points from their opening eight games, there were some thrilling performances – including in the opening weekend’s 4-3 loss to defending champions Liverpool.

With the charismatic Marcelo Bielsa in charge, the team’s attacking intent helped them overcome neutrals with football style.

“They’re just a really fun team to watch, win or lose,” Yormark said. “They play a fast brand of football and they are never out of the game because when you can score goals you can always come back.”

Roc Nation is working with Leeds to particularly target the expansion of the club’s profile in the United States and China, also drawing on memories of the team that won the English league in 1992 and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2001.

“We have this generation that knows and remembers us a lot,” Leeds director of football Victor Orta told the AP. “It’s true that we need a new generation that I call the FIFA generation, because often we don’t appear in the video game and now we are in the video game.

“I’m sure that now the under-18s are starting to know us. And that’s the generation we need, not just in England, but outside of England. This is our challenge, our goal.

While Roc Nation will work with Leeds on marketing that expands the brand and increases business sales, the agency is also working with the club on promoting inclusivity and cultural diversity.

Ahead of Sunday’s home game against Arsenal, a mural has been unveiled in Leeds featuring Kalvin Phillips, a childhood fan now with the team, and two former South Africa squad stars. Albert Johanneson was the first black player to appear in an FA Cup final when Leeds played at Wembley in 1965 against Liverpool. Lucas Radebe captained Leeds for almost a decade at the club which ended in 2005 – a year after the side were relegated from the Premier League.

“Our bond with South Africa is truly amazing,” Orta said.

Yormark was on the pitch at Elland Road in July to watch the second-tier Championship trophy reclaimed as Leeds secured promotion to the world’s richest league.

“Especially now during this time of COVID, we all have to find hope somewhere,” said Yormark, an American who has lived in England for 13 months. “And in Leeds they find hope through their football club.”

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