While at the Athlete Branding panel at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference a few weeks ago, something strange occurred. A person from the crowd asked the group, which featured Greg Via (Sports Marketing Global Director for Gillette), Phil de Picciotto (President of Octagon), Lawrence Norman (adidas Vice President of Global Basketball) and Sarah Robb O’Hagan (President of Gatorade North America), who the most marketable current athlete in sports is. Us basketball fans would assume it would be either Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, but an unexpected consensus answer came out from the panel.
They listed two athletes, one being Serena Williams and the other being Dwight Howard. Sure, Williams makes perfect sense because she is arguably the best female athlete in the world. Howard, however, might not even win Defensive Player of the Year.
So what gives? What makes Howard more marketable than the rest of the cream of the crop in the NBA? Believe it or not, Howard’s separating factor is his Twitter account.
Not only is Howard closing in on two million followers, but also he has the most active Twitter follower base of any athlete. The panel members discussed how 10 percent of his followers are “active,” which means they are actively retweeting or replying to his tweets.
With so many eyes reading his tweets, Howard instantly becomes very useful for his sponsors. Anytime that he tweets that he is drinking the new flavor of Gatorade or that he is trying out his new adidas shoes, the amount of people that will see that tweet is staggering. That is one of the many factors that make him one of the most brand-able athletes in sports.
It also helps that Howard has a funny personality and is wildly popular overseas in China, but for those without endorsement deals and marketing dollars, Twitter has become a great platform for athletes to create their own brand. Robb O’Hagan suggested that if you are a young athlete looking to create a brand for yourself, it behooves you to go ahead and make an account.
What do you think?
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