Gabriel Dillard's feature story on the Carr brothers was a winner in the 30th annual Gruner journalism awards.
Written by Gabriel Dillard
For one hot minute last month, the nation wasn’t talking about Derek Carr the Raiders franchise quarterback.
They were talking about his music career.
It all started with a black-and-white billboard along Clovis Avenue. It featured half of Derek Carr’s face, along with the words “Get Ready 8.15.2017.” It prompted a number of reports from local media, and much speculation.
All was revealed Aug. 15, with a website, derekcarrmusic.com. It had all the looks of an NFL star launching a music career — not unheard of by any stretch.
It became national news, and Derek Carr had to take to Twitter to explain it was all a joke.
In fact, it was the kickoff of the latest advertising campaign by the Carr brothers for EECU, the Valley’s largest credit union. The brothers have been spokespeople for EECU for three years. Each campaign generally features them being silly and pitching EECU’s products. But the national nature of the most recent launch meant something different, said Jim Lowe, a marketing representative for the Fresno-based credit union.
It meant up to 73 million media impressions in two days, he said.
“It made my head explode,” Lowe said. “I hate the word “viral.”
“But it had been viral.”
Love for locals
Derek and David Carr’s relationship with the Central Valley is well known. Despite the national success, they still treasure their local roots. Derek Carr’s fame has reached levels seldom known for residents who reach the national spotlight. In June, it was reported that Carr had struck a $125 million contract extension with the Raiders, making him (for a short period) the highest paid NFL player.
So it may seem to some a miracle that local organizations including EECU, Valley Children’s Healthcare and Dignity Health count the Carr brothers as spokespeople. Despite his busy game schedule, Derek participates in a weekly television segment on ABC 30. David also has a weekly football column with The Fresno Bee during the season, while still working as an analyst for the NFL Network. For many of these organizations, the sponsorships started before Derek Carr became a Raider. Now that he has become a franchise NFL quarterback, the reach — the possibility — seems even longer, on an even grander stage than ever before.
The Carr brothers also maintain their own personal Valley business interests, with plans for expansion in the near future. Looking out for those interests are H Koal and Carla Cossy. Through their San Jose-based agency RBSH Enterprises, the pair handle all of the business and public relations matters for David and Derek Carr.
RBSH Enterprises would seem to be the agency of choice for athletes with a Valley pedigree. They also represent former Bulldog quarterback Trent Dilfer and PGA star Nick Watney.
The agency is very much Valley-oriented, and both Cossy and Koal frequently find themselves here — to the point where it’s like a second home. The enthusiasm for the Valley is contagious in the Carr camp.
“The Carr brothers will always have a home and a special place in their heart for the Central Valley,” Koal said.
“They never forget where they came from, and they always give back,” he added.
The Carr business
To hear Koal speak of the Carr brothers, it doesn’t seem like the typical way an agent would speak of an athlete (at least according to what we see in Hollywood movies). As Koal puts it, he and his partner at RBSH Enterprises really work for four people — David and his wife Melody, and Derek and his wife Heather. It’s a family business, and big decisions are made as a family.
“Carla and I — we work for the four of them,” Koal said.
Carr Elite is one of the decisions the family has made that has had a direct impact on the future of Central Valley athletes. Founded three years ago, Carr Elite is a facility in the Bakersfield area that originally started as a way for Derek Carr to remain and train in the Valley prior to the 2014 NFL Draft. That segued into a place for other elite athletes and novices alike to train.
That has transformed into football minicamps and another outlet for the Carr brothers’ philanthropic efforts. David Carr estimates that Carr Elite and its partner businesses in Bakersfield have provided more than $100,000 for promising student athletes to participate in various Carr Elite programs.
David Carr said that wouldn’t be possible without partners including Motor City Buick GMC in Bakersfield.
“It gets a lot of kids in the door who would otherwise probably would not get any training,” David Carr said.
There are also plans in the works to open a Carr Elite branch in the Fresno area. Madera is another possibility — one made possible by the Carr brothers’ relationship with Valley Children’s Healthcare.
For the children
David Carr said the relationship with Valley Children’s has led to an offer of land for a Carr Elite branch near Valley Children’s Hospital. His vision includes activities for elite training as well as a space for the patients at Valley Children’s to have some fun.
David Carr had a relationship with Valley Children’s even during his time with the Fresno State Bulldogs during the 2000-2001 seasons. Derek Carr’s involvement with Valley Children’s was even more personal, and has become part of Valley lore.
In 2013, when Derek and Heather Carr’s son Dallas was born with a rare intestinal malady, he underwent three surgeries and spent 23 days at the Madera hospital.
“That was the beginning of the relationship for us,” said Todd Suntrapak, president and CEO of Valley Children’s Healthcare.
Now the Carr brothers are a common sight in commercials for Valley Children’s, as well as the in halls of the hospital, taking the time to meet with kids and make them feel special.
“They are very much part of the family here. They are very cherished,” Suntrapak said about the Carr family.
“I’ve rarely known two men with purer hearts that these two,” he added.
The Carr brothers’ newest partnership is with Dignity Health. Based in San Francisco, Dignity Health has 9,000 physicians and 400 care centers in 22 states, including three hospitals in the Bakersfield area where the Carr brothers hail from.
Longtime Bakersfield television anchor Robin Mangarin-Scott, who now handles strategic marketing and communications for Dignity Health in Bakersfield, said she knew of the Carr brothers as they advanced out of their prep careers, guided by their parents Rodger and Sheryl Carr.
“They are just a good family,” Mangarin-Scott said.
Dignity Health’s motto is “hello human kindness,” and one of the first efforts of the partnership is a video the captures another well-known story about Derek Carr — the time in March when he stopped to help a stranger who ran out of gas and was stranded in the East Bay community of Dublin.
The video features Carr and the stranded motorist, a Bay Area music producer named Ron Reeser, discussing the incident and what it meant to both of them.
“It has nothing to do with health care or football,” Mangarin-Scott said. “It has to do with human kindness, and it’s more powerful than any 30-second commercial or ad in a newspaper.”
She added that in two days the video had more impressions, shares and reach online than any other post shared socially.
“If our launch of this online video is any indication, the sky’s the limit,” Mangarin-Scott added.
A budding music career?
Online video may be the next frontier for the Carr brothers. The latest EECU commercials may portray the Carr brothers at their silliest yet. The viral campaign teased the world on whether we would actually hear some of Derek’s music. He did not disappoint, singing a poppy song about EECU’s “great rates” while dancing around in a fringed jean jacket.
The title of the song? “A Bank I Can Trust.” A sample of the lyrics: “EECU’s got my back. EECU’s saving stacks.”
Behind all of the joking around is an actual marketing plan, said Lowe, EECU’s marketing representative.
“As much fun as it is, there really is strategy behind it,” he said. “We are very concerned about how we portray ourselves. Celebrity endorsements can be challenging.”
“We are pleased with how it has come together,” Lowe added.
The future of the Carr business
Cossy of RBSH Enterprises handles marketing and social media matters for Derek Carr. She also schedules photo shoots and other appearances for the brothers. In a world where diva-like behavior may be common, Cossy has nothing but good things to say about the Carr brothers’ work ethic.
“I’ve worked with a lot of athletes,” Cossy said. “It doesn’t get better than Derek and David Carr.”
For all of the philanthropic efforts that are well known about the Carrs, there are just as many that go under the radar — done in the Christian tradition, without seeking publicity.
On the social media side, Derek Carr is focusing on building up a YouTube channel, drawing inspiration from a fellow Bay Area professional athlete, Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant.
The channel as of this week had just shy of 3,000 subscribers. One of the most recent videos is a recap of the game versus the New York Jets (the Raiders are currently 2-0, and with the potent duo and obvious chemistry of Derek Carr and running back Marshawn Lynch, the silver-and-black faithful can’t help but fantasize about another postseason appearance and more).
While the Raiders planned move to Las Vegas has left many fans conflicted, it’s clear that the Carr brothers will still maintain their connections — family and business — to the Central
“Regardless of whether the Raiders are in Oakland or Las Vegas, our commitment to the Central Valley doesn’t change,” Koal said.
“The only thing that will change is our commute time,” he added.