Miami Heat’s DJ Irie expands brand with large corporate partnerships

The Miami Heat. Carnival Cruise Lines. Target. Premier Beverage Company (Grey Goose Vodka). Beck’s Brewery. Cadillac. WEDR 99 JAMZ.

DJ Irie has so many brands attached to his name that it’s difficult to think of him as only a DJ. He has transcended his first title, not only spinning tracks at night clubs and Heat games, but joining the select and small community of DJs who are recognized as celebrities in their own right.

It all comes to a head this weekend with DJ Irie’s 10th annual fundraiser, Irie Weekend, when he will announce the latest developments in his ever-growing brand.

Despite not being on Forbes’ list of the world’s 12 highest-paid DJs, (Calvin Harris was No. 1 for 2013, bringing in $46 million) his brand development in the last few years has elevated him to a position as the music face of various top-tier companies.

Irie, whose real name is Ian Grocher, became the first sports team DJ when he partnered with the Miami Heat in 1999. Since then, he has grown an empire including sports, beverage companies, clothing stores and cruise lines.

It all began with a relationship with Premier Beverage Company, the distributor of Grey Goose Vodka, in 2006 that led to a partnership in 2010.

The company was one of the first to explore other options than just booking him for an event, he said. “It really hit me because the reason why it made so much sense was because it fit so organically into a lifestyle, into what we were projecting,” he said.

Irie said that at his many nightclub events, a Grey Goose-and-Red Bull was one of his go-to drinks. It made sense to partner with a company that sold the products he already supported.

“We are already in the lifestyle, but now it’s letting folks know what our preferences are,” he said.

Since the partnership began, he is now often handed bottles of Grey Goose at club events because people consider him synonymous with the brand, he said.

That affiliation spawned a movement toward exploring other brand partnerships with businesses that are in line with his own brand. His efforts have been so successful that in March, he launched a consulting agency to help emerging performers connect with brands. His business success earned his honors as the Entrepreneur DJ of the Year at the 2013 Global Spin Awards, where he also was named National Club DJ of the Year.

Irie wouldn’t reveal the worth of his endorsements and partnerships or his net worth, but IRIE Music Corporation Managing Director Shobie Callaghan said Irie’s appearances can “command upwards of five figures.” The company’s gross revenues grew by 50 percent in 2013 over 2012, he said.

At Irie Weekend, he will reveal his latest partnership with Beck’s “Live Beyond Labels” campaign, revealing his label design. Irie will join singers Aloe Blacc and Luis Fonsi as one of the faces of the brand. His face will be on 500,000 bottles distributed nationwide in July.

“I’ve never been more refreshing ever,” Irie joked.

The weekend event will also feature the premiere of his trailer for the campaign, in which he explains the struggles of being labeled early in his career.

Irie started as a DJ in 1995, a time when, he said, many people wanted to label him only as a club DJ.

“I found that very frustrating because I know for myself that my love of music, my vocabulary of music, my love of different cultures, there was so much more I had to offer,” he said.

In 2010, he snagged a deal with Carnival Cruise Lines, becoming the official music face of the ships along with Guy Fieri on the food side and George Lopez in entertainment. Carnival’s chairman is Heat owner Micky Arison.

He set up the Spin’iversity program to train DJs for Carnival’s fleet. Today, Carnival’s DJs have all gone through the three-week training program with Irie. On Sunday, the 2,974-Carnival Freedom will be rolling out its Spin U presented by IRIE youth program to teach young guests how to spin tracks while on the ship and even earn their DJ names.

“What he brings to any partnership is this amazing energy and spirit and that is what was most attractive about bringing him to Carnival,” said Mark Tamis, vice present of client operations at Carnival Cruise Lines. “Everything he touches is about making everything memorable in a fun way.”

Among his other partnerships are deals with Cadillac, as a brand ambassador for its 2015 edition Escalade, and Target.

Irie Weekend,, continues through Saturday night with a celebrity golf tournament, club parties, celebrity bowling and a BBQ beach bash. The fundraising event will benefit Irie’s charity, the Irie Foundation, which supports South Florida’s at-risk youth. Irie Weekend has raised more than $200,000 since 2011. This year, the goal is $150,000.

Among this weekend’s major announcements will be a partnership with Motivational Edge, a Miami organization that focuses on giving children opportunities to study the arts. Motivational Edge’s Allapattah Music and Literacy Center will be renamed to the Irie Foundation Allapattah Music and Literacy Center, expected to open this summer.