DETROIT – Some of Detroit’s most iconic faces were dressed to impress on the evening of November 14th at the Detroit Pistons Performance Center.
Mom-to-be, Kash Doll arrived around 6pm wearing a stunning gold dress to cover her baby bump in the Pistons’ exercise facility that would be the location of the rapper and actor’s baby shower. (The team was gone after a street game in Toronto.)
Nearly 100 of her close family and friends, including legendary lyric poet Lil ‘Kim, gathered for a basketball event.
It was decked out in red and blue Pistons colors with a five-layer basketball cake and carriages that overlooked the practice grounds to celebrate their unborn son, “Baby Kash,” who is expected on January 9th.
“This is a boss action,” said Kash Doll with a laugh.
“It was really intimate for my really close people in town,” she added. “I had a nice time.”
The celebration was only supposed to last until 9 p.m., but they were having so much fun that Aaron Michael Johnson, who works on the Pistons’ branding strategy, allowed them to stay an hour longer.
And that’s exactly how the organization likes it as it goes out of its way to connect with the city, especially Black Detroit – which has about 77.2% blacks according to the 2020 US census.
While the team may struggle to find an identity on the pitch, the Pistons’ marketing officers have a clear direction on where they’re going and what audience they’re targeting.
Alicia Jeffreys, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Pistons, and Tyrel Kirkham, Pistons Vice President of Brand and Marketing Strategy, will lead the assignment.
“I actually have a sticky note on my blackboard, in my office, in my handwriting that says, ‘Imagine black culture without Detroit,'” Jeffreys said. “And I’ll leave it up there as a reminder of the incredible size that has always been in town, and Tyrel and I talk about it every day: How do we use our platform at the size that has always been here?
“I think there’s this misnomer that Detroit is suddenly different. There has been talent in Detroit for years and there is one story we literally just lean into. We don’t have to create it, it’s already there. “
Alicia Jeffreys, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Detroit Pistons, holds a piece of paper that says “Imagine Black Culture Without Detroit” on her desk as a motivation to push the boundaries.
Those long hours of planning, planning, and strategizing with local creatives and influencers like designers Ty Mopkins and Rick Williams, spoken word artist Mama Sol, and even multi-platinum rapper Big Sean, who is the Creative Director of Innovation at Pistons 2020, could be seen at the season opener against Chicago on October 20.
Among the 20,088 fans at Little Caesars Arena that Wednesday night were Kash Doll, rapper Sada Baby, boxers Tony Harrison and Tommy Hearns, former NBA player Jalen Rose and Pistons legends Rip Hamilton, Isiah Thomas and Ben Wallace.
“I felt like the connection was there and I’m so happy about it because it’s like, don’t let us out,” said Kash Doll.
At halftime, rising Detroit rapper Babyface Ray performed some of his street anthems like “Gallery Dept”, “Paperwork Party” and “What the Business Is” with a guest appearance by Big Sean, which sparked a strong reaction from the Motown audience.
Big Sean is the new Creative Director, Innovation for the Detroit Pistons
“Detroit is known internationally for its contribution to black excellence in the world of music, automobiles, art, politics, education and sports,” Thomas told ESPN. “I am honored to be part of this eternal story.”
Although Pistons No. 1 Pick Cade Cunningham’s NBA debut that night was delayed by a sprained ankle, he quickly won Detroit fans on Draft Night months earlier when he brought out Cartier sunglasses known around town as “Buffs” an iconic fashion piece in the city.
He also texted Sada Baby and Babyface Ray throughout the season, and continues to learn about the city through some of the Pistons collaborations, community events, and teammate Josh Jackson, also from Detroit.
“I learned about it [Detroit culture] some time ago because I used to see McGraw Ave. [TV show] and all the Detroit movies and the like, ”said Cunningham. “Well, I was watching a game a while ago and when they got the first choice it all worked out for me. Me and my cousin are on, we’re on. “
Cade Cunningham Diary: “I’m the kind of person who gets better every day”
Though the Pistons have their pulse on black culture, they haven’t lost sight of that with game day experiences like the popular Swag Cam, which puts fans in flashy attire in the spotlight, and halftime musical acts like Icewear Vezzo, Jeffreys and Kirkham they can actually be an asset to the community.
So, they partnered with Shopify to launch SHOP313, a program that gives Detroit local entrepreneurs free access to Shopify and Pistons advertising inventory, including social media posts. Healthy Roots Dolls, a doll company that empowers young girls and represents the beauty of diversity, and Detroit is the New Black are some of the local black-owned companies that have benefited from this resource.
“However, from an impact point of view, we’ve really adjusted to the Black-owned business,” said Jeffreys. “We can lean on the culture, we can create a really good entertainment experience, we can have fun with the fans, we can do things that we enjoy, but how can you actually influence the community? So one of the ways is to highlight black-owned companies and women-owned companies. “
Pistons star Jerami Grant is aware of the matchday experience, collaboration, community and philanthropic endeavors that appeal to black audiences. The opportunity to play for a Black head coach Dwane Casey and Black general manager Troy Weaver drew him to the Pistons.
“The city’s energy is different. Since I’m from DC it’s more of a homie vibe, ”Grant said. “It’s extremely important to me. Me and Troy, we grew up in the same area so I know Troy and he knows the culture. Just being black doesn’t mean you get it, but when you have someone who has been through similar things that you’ve been through and who can understand you or relate to you in a certain way, then you feel more comfortable and makes you want to give the city more. “
Every night it is not uncommon to see Kash Doll, 42 Dugg, Big Sean or Sada Baby in the crowd at the Little Caesars Arena, much like the Atlanta Hawks have their entertainers like Quavo, Future, 21 Savage, Killer Mike, Big. welcome Boi, Gucci Mane, TI, Lil Yachty and many others to the games in the State Farm Arena. But they are trying to build their own identity.
“I love Atlanta, but I want to be Detroit,” said Jeffreys.
Kash Doll’s baby shower was held at the Detroit Pistons Performance Center on November 14th.
And now is the perfect time to take advantage of the popular BMF television series from 50 Cent, which was based in Motor City, and the success of the ever-growing rap scene.
The only thing missing is that the pistons correspond to this energy.
“Detroit is on the rise like never before. We have had our time. I felt like people would have their time but I feel like it was a person but it’s like Detroit culture is on the rise. People copy what we did. People copy our sound, they take our beats, ”said Kash Doll. “We finally have that time where the New Yorkers had their time. People in Atlanta still have their time because they have their sound and they always come together, but it’s finally a time when it’s not just about one person. It’s like a whole culture is emerging [in Detroit]. “
Eric Woodyard is an NBA reporter for ESPN. Woodyard is from Flint, Michigan and is a student of the Michigan State Flintstones – Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson, Charlie Bell, and Antonio Smith – who proudly represent 810.
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