Portland’s franchise poster child Damian Lillard is a genius when it comes to personal branding. Although his skills got him in the NBA, his personal networking is what made him who he is today.
Lillard’s odds to high profile status have always been against him. He barely got any college offers to play basketball out of high school, but a small school called Weber State took a chance with him. Lillard soared through college but got little attention because of the market of his small school. Although being drafted in the first round is every professionals dream, getting drafted to Portland can be a curse. Portland is known for its loyal and dedicated fan base, but the market is extremely small when compared to the markets of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or Miami. Because the market is small, companies don’t quickly jump on players to represent their brands. The players in Portland need to grind a little more to earn those shoe contracts or commercials.
Here are the three major reasons how Damian Lillard emerged as a household name:
1. Capitalized on Portland market
Damian Lillard’s rookie season went extremely well as he finished with the NBA’s “rookie of the year”. Almost more importantly though he won the community assist award for his work off the court. Lillard emerged quickly in the Portland community as their franchise player because of the hard work. During his rookie season he used his personal time to help people in need. Lillard became the voice for “Respect, Pass It On,” an Anti-bullying campaign in Portland which eventually gained media attention nationwide. He also was the face of Friends of the Children, a non-profit program that helps mentor at risk children. He also visited at local schools to speak with students and hand out free gear. For more information on this visit this link
Lillard’s quick action to win over the city of Portland instantly made him their new franchise player, which opened many doors ahead of him in business opportunities.
2. Influenced a subculture:
Besides basketball, Damian Lillard is known for his rap music. He goes by “Dame D.O.L.L.A.” His passion for music has always been equivalent with basketball. Lillard’s didn’t just use rap as a hobby he used his star status to turn it into a reality as well. He even has songs with features from Lil Wayne and Jamie Foxx.
Don’t mistake this as a random passion though. Lillard was brilliant by engaging with the rap community. He even started a social media movement called #4barfriday, where amateur rappers create short Instagram clips and Lillard picks a weekly winner. These winners get featured on his page, which has almost three and a half million followers. The movement blew up and now the rap community has a player in the NBA they can call their own. This is Brilliant personal branding because he dramatically widened his fan base from Portland to people around the globe.
3. Tapped his home market:
Lillard is a proud product of the city of Oakland. Many players don’t talk about where they are from, but Lillard uses his success to bring awareness to his home town, and in return his home town follows him. As a product of Oakland he represents his city and the people who in it. Although Oakland can be considered a very tough place to be raised he is proud of where he is from and constantly gives back to the community. Although Oaklands fan base remains loyal to the Golden State Warriors, Damian Lillard is their home town hero and they are loyal to him. For more information on what he has done for the community of Oakland click this link.
Lillard ties all these pieces together to make his market much bigger than Portland itself. He is a perfect example of how to personally brand.