Athletes are becoming more reliant on social media to build their brands. While this is expected due to the reach and engagements that social media platforms afford, there are still athletes with extremely marketable brands that have yet to capitalize on all of its advantages and there are some who have an exceptional social media presence but no brand identity for their audience to identify with. When I think of brands that lack visual identity the one figure that comes to mind is Giannis Antetokounmpo, The Greek Freak; one of NBA’s risen stars becoming one of the league’s leading scorers. He harnesses all of the attributes to become one of the NBA’s most valuable brands; international fan base, on the court success, community relations, prevalent brand partnerships and philanthropist efforts. Some of the most recognizable brands in basketball have an associative identity that is easily identifiable by their audience including the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Isaiah Thomas and Kobe Bryant.
The primary advantage of brand image and social media presence affords the athlete and their representatives leverage when negotiating contracts and co-branding partnerships. Antetokounmpo’s social media influence has shown tremendous growth and will serve as a major contributor to the prospective branding power, trending upward of 200,000 new monthly followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
(Credits: Social Blade Instagram Statistics
At 42K current subscribers and over 1.6 million total views, the Greek Freak’s YouTube channel displayed hints of the beginning stages of building a concrete brand offering an inside glimpse of him off the court but hasn’t been updated in the past two years. In conjunction with an established brand image, video content is becoming an essential part of branding, take Isaiah Thomas’ Book of Isaiah documentary series by The Player’s Tribune for example. Isaiah invites his fans on a journey through his professional and personal life from the beginning of the 2017 NBA playoffs.
To give a glimpse of his continued branding power and the future outlook of his brand, Antetokounmpo recently re-signed with Nike for a long-term partnership and he has full control over the production of his own signature shoe. There have only been a handful of branded athletes that have solidified a signature shoe with Nike, let alone have creative input and control throughout the production process.
Antetokounmpo’s emerging brand could presumably become one of the most marketable brands in sports when it begins to maximize all of the avenues available to reach its audience.