The Utah Jazz added an interesting footnote to its franchise recently, selecting Australian guard Dante Exum No. 5 at the 2014 NBA Draft. Jazz fans were overjoyed when their team selected Exum–giving the team a logjam at the point guard position with Trey Burke and John Lucas III–while also keeping an eye on its future.
Normally, such a situation might cause a team’s fan base to freak out and start throwing furniture across their living rooms. But, having the player that many have argued was the best point guard prospect to come out of the 2014 NBA Draft–and a very good point guard in Burke–gives the Jazz the option of playing dual point guards at the same time, or playing each intermittently.
Exum was expected to have been selected in the top three–but when Joel Embiid went to Philadelphia at No.3 and Aaron Gordon to Orlando at No. 4 it set the stage for a memorable draft as the Aussie slid to Utah with the fifth pick.
The Jazz took Exum, and the rest was history as Utah looks to right its past few years of futility, not only on the basketball court–but also on the court of public opinion.
Does branding matter in this situation? Absolutely, and that Duke star Jabari Parker–also a devout Mormon–was considered the Jazz’ No. 1 draft day target is a big sign that Utah knew it needed someone who could strengthen the franchise brand.
While Andrew Wiggins was arguably a better overall prospect than Parker, the Jazz knew what Parker could bring to the team and the state on and off the court. Exum was also near the top of their list in that regard.
But Exum–who is an Australian Celebrity of epic proportion, already has built a following based on his popularity overseas, and most recently has come stateside in a giant way in various TV commercials–may actually have more marketability than Jabari. How so? Let us count the ways. Click on the slideshow for five reasons why Exum is potentially a better brand.
Before Exum had even played a minute of pro basketball he already had a slew of sponsors, including major deals with Red Bull, adidas, Foot Locker and the sports card company Panini.
The deals ranged in the millions and were signed months ago–making him a cash cow long before he ever arrived in Utah and was drafted by the Jazz. While Parker certainly will get his endorsements as the No. 2 pick, he still has a ways to go to catch up to Exum.
As indicated previously, Exum signed with Red Bull–but he went against the grain by aligning with a company that usually sponsors extreme sports athletes–not basketball players.
This could actually parlay, accidentally, into something huge in Utah, because the state is an extreme sports hotbed. Even though Exum–again–signed his deal with the energy drink company long before he arrived in the Beehive State, he should be able to cash in on his newfound popularity in no time flat.
With Moab, Park City, Snowbasin and several other X-sports hotspots not far from Salt Lake City at all, Red Bull will have a great chance to cross-promote Exum and build its brand popularity outside of extreme sports.
Exum appeared in commercials before the draft even got underway–starring in the “Life Changes After The Draft” spots for adidas and Foot Locker.
Produced by TheVaultNYC, the five 16-second spots have been a global hit, amassing over 3 million views on YouTube in about one week. The spots poked fun at Exum not getting fan mail, not getting a room comped, not getting recognized at the mall, learning how to sign his autograph umpteen times and explaining the difference between England and Australia to a commoner.
Perhaps Parker will get his opportunity to explain the difference between Mormonism and Christianity–but it’s doubtful at best. Score one more for Exum.
Exum has enough of a sense of humor–and wit–to know that the 1980s motion picture hit “Crocodile Dundee” will have a huge impact on how he is viewed not only in the NBA, but in the United States.
Will Jazz fans compare Exum to Mick Dundee? Absolutely. These same fans nicknamed and embraced Andrei Kirilenko as AK-47 after the Russian-made automatic weapon of the same name–and Kirilenko loved it!
What would they have called Jabari Parker, had he arrived here? The Stormin’ Mormon? Not without compaints. Exum’s out-of-town accent and demeanor makes him more appealing to Jazz fans looking for an escape–whereas Parker’s religion is good for a few nice talking points and local marketability.
Exum is not just a Utah brand–or an American brand. He’s a global brand, on a global scale. Today’s advances in technology (smartphones, computers, even television) have made it possible for Exum.
If he even shows one-third of the talent that many believe he has, the NBA will capitalize in a big way. If Exum is a good player they will do even more. And if Exum happens to have superstar potential like Jazz brass believes, this Aussie could be the biggest sensation that Utah has ever seen.
Exum alone could be bigger than “The Mailman” and John Stockton. But for now, he will just be No. 11, Australia’s most famous basketball player since Andrew Bogut–another player, Aussie and top draft pick who knows Utah all too well.