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Cavs Win Big At The NBA Lottery

May 18, 2011

Last night, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the Number 1 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Conspiracy theorists are already claiming that the lottery selection was rigged. One of them is David Kahn, the President of Basketball Operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Here’s his quote about last night courtesy of Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press:

“This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible story lines,” Kahn said. “Last year it was Abe Pollin’s widow and this year it was a 14-year-old boy and the only thing we have in common is we have both been bar mitzvahed. We were done. I told Kevin: ‘We’re toast.’ This is not happening for us and I was right.”

Regardless of how the Cavaliers got the Number 1 pick, it is a fact that in recent history the pick has allowed a team to recreate its image more so than the Number 1 pick in any other sport. Just look at the last three top picks in the NBA and the NFL, the leagues in which players earn the most marketing dollars and enjoy the biggest personal brands.

NBA

2008 Draft – Derrick Rose was picked by the Chicago Bulls

2009 Draft – Blake Griffin was picked by the Los Angeles Clippers

2010 Draft – John Wall was picked by the Washington Wizards

NFL

2008 Draft – Jake Long was picked by the Miami Dolphins

2009 Draft – Matthew Stafford was picked by the Detroit Lions

2010 Draft – Sam Bradford was picked by the St. Louis Rams

Rose, Griffin, and Wall have already proven to be marketing stars and thus image changers for their respective franchises. Each has a major shoe deal in which they are an important part of the company’s marketing plan – Rose with adidas, Griffin with Nike, and Wall with Reebok. The three are also big stars on social media. Griffin and Wall use Twitter and have many followers as Griffin has a bit under 350,000 followers and Wall has more than 240,000 followers (Rose does not use Twitter). On Facebook, Rose’s page has over 2,500,000 “likes,” Griffin’s has over 830,000 “likes,” and Wall’s has over 630,000 “likes.” These three are young, exciting, and talented players who have grown their personal brand to the benefit of their teams. The Bulls with Rose, Clippers with Griffin, and Wizards with Wall used them as the new, fresh faces of struggling franchises when they came to the teams. It is a mutually beneficial marketing relationship. The player builds his personal brand as the talented Number 1 pick, the team makes the player the face of the franchise, and the player enjoys even more personal brand growth. The use of the Number 1 pick as the franchise’s face can be evidenced by this month’s launch of new jerseys for the Washington Wizards where John Wall was one of the models.

So how about Long, Stafford, and Bradford? All have had less success in their early careers with regards to marketing and personal brand growth. Long is an offensive lineman, so obviously his opportunities are limited, but Stafford and Bradford are quarterbacks and the faces of their respective franchises. Bradford just recently signed his first national sponsorship deal with Axe. None of the other two have anything similar from my personal research (please update in comments if you know of something). None of the three have major deals with apparel companies either. Finally, their social media presence is not strong. On Twitter, Stafford has over 15,000 followers, Bradford has over 4,000 followers on a very inactive page, and Long doesn’t have an account. On Facebook, Stafford has over 11,000 “likes,” Bradford has over 123,000 “likes,” and Long has almost 5,000 likes on their pages.

The sports are obviously different. The NBA has fewer players, and basketball players are more recognizable because they don’t wear helmets. The last three drafts in the NBA and NFL show the power of having the Number 1 pick in the NBA. As long as Kyrie Irving or any of the other options can have an impact on the court, always important, the Cavaliers will be able to usher in a new post-LeBron age in which there is a new, fresh face for the franchise.

– Jason

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 18, 2011 11:32 am

    I love the conspiracy theory getting mentioned because it seems to have morphed from urban legend to something at least a percentage of folks truly believe. It is open for interpretation as to how these things “go down.” That being said, an excellent post about how these selections can improve your brand at the minimum in parallel to performance…but in many cases exceed it. The hopes and expectations born of these picks translate to more revenue…and brand awareness for player and franchise alike.

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