Tag Archives: example

‘Fun Guy’ Kawhi Leonard the latest example of NBA branding

Kawhi Leonard’s likeness looks down from some 10 storeys high over Yonge-Dundas Square in the heart of downtown Toronto.

Arms crossed. Serious face. The tagline reads: “Fun Guy.” Leonard looks anything but. And that’s the appeal.

Credit New Balance for capitalizing on what began as an inadvertently funny line from Leonard at his introductory news conference in Toronto, followed by his oddball laugh. It exploded into a meme. And it’s since been embraced by Toronto Raptors fans who’ve fallen in love with the quiet superstar.

New Balance was looking for uncommon personalities in sport. They got one in Leonard, who’s having one of the greatest playoff runs in NBA history.

“What we found with Kawhi, he’s this guy who’s super unique, he’s way different than every other athlete in the NBA for so many reasons,” said Patrick Cassidy, the company’s global director of consumer marketing.

New Balance beat out all the big basketball players like Nike when it signed Leonard, after what Cassidy called an “obsessive pursuit of the right type of athlete.”

He’s just so different than anybody else.— Patrick Cassidy, New Balance global director of consumer marketing, on Kawhi Leonard

“We want a player who is independent in their thinking, not wanting to do what everybody else does, not follow the blueprint that other athletes do,” Cassidy said. “[Leonard] doesn’t need to be on Instagram. He doesn’t need to be on Twitter . . . this is who he is and we want to celebrate that. We don’t want to change it.”

Leonard was spotted wearing a “Fun Guy” T-shirt on a recent Raptors flight.

“He’s in on the conversation without having to actually be replying to comments from people on Twitter … burner accounts, etc.,” Cassidy said. “He’s just so different than anybody else.”

The Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard sported these New Balance shoes during warmup prior to a game earlier in this year’s NBA playoffs. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Leonard is different in a league that values difference. The NBA, said Cassidy, is in an entirely different class in its celebration of personalities.

“It’s a sport that likes to celebrate individuality on and off the court unlike any other sports in the world,” Cassidy said before giving an example: “There’s no other sport that excessively documents the walk-in to an arena like the NBA does. MLB has tried that a little bit this year, the NHL has tried it a little bit this year, but it hasn’t quite taken off like that.”

Players like Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and enigmatic Russell Westbrook have become fashion icons for their walk-in ensembles. James wore Bermuda shorts and jacket during last year’s finals. Westbrook, who wears his outfits just once then donates them, once arrived in a poncho and wood-brimmed hat. Then-teammate Kevin Durant called him “the conquistador.”

WATCH | Leonard shines in Game 3 win:

Kawhi Leonard finished with a game-high 36 points as the Toronto Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 118-112 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final. 3:03

“There’s a social construct that’s not there at this level with other sports,” Cassidy added. “NBA Twitter . . . there’s nothing like NBA Twitter in the world.”

Leonard raised eyebrows when he signed with New Balance. But when his limited edition New Balance OMN1S & 997 Sport pack dropped in Canada, the U.S. and China during the Raptors’ conference semifinal series against Philadelphia, they sold out in minutes.

Why are NBA players so marketable?

Wide-mouthed smile

The fact their faces aren’t covered is a big part of it.

“They’re not wearing a helmet,” said Toronto’s Randy Osei, the founder of Rozaay Management. “So if you’re watching a basketball game and the camera zooms in on Kyle Lowry, you’re seeing Kyle Lowry’s mustache, his pimples, everything.”

Leonard’s wide-mouthed smile after his Game 7 buzzer-beater was like money in the bank for New Balance. That same game, the camera caught Lowry fighting back tears as he grabbed the game ball. A close-up showed Marc Gasol consoling a weeping Joel Embiid.

“It’s absolutely relatable,” said Osei.

The former U Sports player founded Rozaay, a creative marketing and branding agency, in 2013 and works with Canadian NBA players Jamal Murray, Dillon Brooks and Khem Birch, among others.

Another trait that sets NBA players apart? They’re vocal about social justice issues. So vocal that Fox News host Laura Ingraham demanded in 2018 that they “shut up and dribble.”

Powerful voices for social change

The backlash was fierce.

James, who’s often used his platform to speak out on social issues (he galvanized the league’s players after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and he campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2016), used it to shine a spotlight on injustice. He produced a Showtime documentary series called Shut up and Dribble and the ESPN series More Than an Athlete.

Both the NBA and WNBA have become powerful vehicles for social change.

“The NBA as a league has done a good job of representing and using the voices that the players have to speak to social issues,” Osei said. “And then the players themselves have created their own stance to do that. So that adds more spotlight to them off the court.

“LeBron started this ‘more than an athlete’ thing. He’s saying he’s not just a guy who plays 48 minutes per game then goes home and just thinks about basketball every day. He’s thinking about the next generation,” Osei said. “He’s launched a school (called “I Promise,” the school targets high-risk kids). All these guys are doing so much.”

On a smaller scale, players have taken control of their own personal branding. Bet on Yourself are words that Fred VanVleet lives by. The Raptors guard created his own “Bet on Yourself” clothing line. Teammate Norman Powell has his own streetwear line featuring his Understand the Grind mantra. Pascal Siakam has his own logo — the letters P and S in the shape of a heart.

The Raptors’ Norman Powell shows off has his own streetwear line, featuring his Understand the Grind mantra, at Sunday’s post-game news conference in Toronto. (Submitted by YouTube)

Both Powell and Siakam wore their branded clothing at Sunday’s post-game news conferences following Toronto’s double-overtime win against the Milwaukee Bucks.

“Each athlete has their own unique journey and as an agent, I take pride in helping athletes be the best version of themselves,” said Brian Levine of Envision Sports & Entertainment, whose clients include soccer star Christine Sinclair and sprinter Andre De Grasse. Levine has also worked with VanVleet.

“So that’s a big part, how do you differentiate yourself from everyone else? So, this is me as an observer of Fred, he’s had a different journey than others. That manifests itself in his brand. I think he really nailed it. And that’s something that people can relate to, it’s all about relatability.”

All the brand building and proactive efforts by athletes or agents can’t measure up to performance, Levine said.

Savvy about social media at young age

“But the combination of the two … look at Usain Bolt,” he said.

Levine noted that basketball players are savvy about social media from a young age. Toronto’s Elijah Fisher, who headlines the class of 2023, has almost 56,000 followers on Instagram.

“And he’s in Grade 9,” Levine said.

As for Leonard, Levine said there’s surely no shortage of brands who “would die” to work with him, despite his lack of social media presence and soft-spoken demeanour.

New Balance liked Leonard’s desire to have creative input and share ideas.

“There are a lot of guys who say they want that, and then when you actually get there with them they don’t really want to, and that’s okay,” Cassidy said. “But he bought into the vision for what we want to make New Balance basketball become over a long period of time.”

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'Latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia': World leaders react to New Zealand mass shooting

World leaders expressed condolences and condemnation Friday following the deadly attacks on mosques in New Zealand, while Muslim leaders said the mass shooting was evidence of a rising tide of violent Islamophobia.

In a tweet, U.S. President Donald Trump sent "warmest sympathy and best wishes" to the people of New Zealand.

He wrote "49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!"

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the attacks the "latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia."

New Zealand police said at least 49 people were killed Friday at two mosques in the picturesque South Island city of Christchurch. More than 20 were seriously wounded in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a "terrorist attack."

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Friday's violence is the 'latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia.' (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

One man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack. Police also defused explosive devices in a car. Two other people were being held in custody and police were trying to determine how they might be involved.

Pakistan, Turkey condemn rising Islamophobia

Speaking at the funeral of a former minister, Erdogan said the Islamophobia that motivated the attacks "has rapidly started to take over Western communities like a cancer."

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan echoed those sentiments.

"I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam & 1.3 bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim," he tweeted.

Women in Istanbul take part in a demonstration to protest against the Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand, following Friday prayers. The placard reads: 'Say no to global terror.' (Murad Sezer/Reuters)

The secretary-general of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Co-operation, Youssef al-Othaimeen, said in a statement that the attack "served as a further warning on the obvious dangers of hate, intolerance, and Islamophobia."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians are appalled by the attack and they remember all too well the sorrow after Alexandre Bissonnette shot dead six Muslim men in a Quebec City mosque in 2017.

"Far too often, Muslims suffer unimaginable loss and pain in the places where they should feel safest," Trudeau said in a statement. "To move forward as a world, we need to recognize diversity as a source of strength, and not a threat."

Queen Elizabeth, New Zealand's head of state, said in a message to the country she was "deeply saddened by the appalling events in Christchurch," and sent condolences to families and friends of victims. The Queen also paid tribute to emergency services and volunteers supporting the injured.

"At this tragic time, my thoughts and prayers are with all New Zealanders," she said in her message.

Princes William and Harry, together with their spouses, the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex, respectively, said their hearts go out to those who lost their lives.

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted he learned of the attack "with horror and profound sadness.

"The European Union will always stand with #NewZealand and against those who heinously want to destroy our societies and our way of life," he wrote.

Mosque security bolstered in France

In France, home to western Europe's largest Muslim community, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner ordered regional authorities to bolster security at mosques as a precaution.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city's Metropolitan Police force would be visible outside mosques.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, shown at a vigil at the East London Mosque for the victims of the New Zealand mosque attacks, tweeted that he blamed 'current Islamophobia post-9/11.' (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

"London stands with the people of Christchurch in the face of this horrific terror attack," he said. "London will always celebrate the diversity that some seek to destroy."

Indonesia's president, Joko Widodo, condemned the attacks, in which an Indonesian father and son were among those wounded. Indonesian Muslim leaders expressed anger at the shooting rampage while urging Muslims to show restraint.

Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said bigotry in Western countries contributed to the attacks on Muslims in New Zealand. In a Friday tweet, he also criticized the West for "defending demonization of Muslims as 'freedom of expression.'"

Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates' minister of state for foreign affairs, tweeted "heartfelt condolences" to New Zealand.

"Our collective work against violence & hate must continue with renewed vigor. Our thoughts & prayers are with the families of the victims," Gargash wrote.

'An attack on all of us'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attacks a "brazen act of terror." His office said on Twitter that Israel mourns the murder of innocent worshippers, condemns the assault and sends its condolences to bereaved families.

Jordan's King Abdullah II tweeted that "the heinous massacre against Muslims praying in peace in New Zealand is an appalling terrorist crime. It unites us against extremism, hatred and terrorism, which knows no religion." Jordan's Foreign Ministry confirmed that one Jordanian was killed and five wounded in the attack.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas extended his country's sympathies to those who lost loved ones.

"The horrific terrorist attack in Christchurch targeted peacefully praying Muslims — if people are murdered solely because of their religion, that is an attack on all of us," he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the "dastardly terrorist attack" in Christchurch.

A telegram of condolences sent by the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis said he was "deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life" caused by the "senseless acts of violence" in Christchurch. He assured all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his "heartfelt solidarity."

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