Kevin Durant fans seemed to be up in arms with me on Twitter when I said that I thought the Oklahoma City Thunder forward needed a bit more personality to be more marketable.
Durant does have deals with Nike, Gatorade, Panini, EA Sports, Skullcandy headphones and Degree Men, but I thought the small market and a reserved demeanor didn't exactly make him stand out besides his amazing on the court performance, that is.
Instead of just guessing, I asked two polling services to tell me what their polls revealed about Durant.
I was surprised.
The Davie-Brown Index (DBI) shows that Durant's best attribute is endorsement. He's ranked No. 389 out of the nearly 2,800 celebrities in their database. Those polled consider Durant's endorsement to be as good as an endorsement by Stephen Colbert, Jack Nicklaus or Will Ferrell. DBI data reflects that his endorsement means more to fans than anyone in the NBA, except for Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard.
"For a pretty quiet guy in a small sports market, these are impressive scores," said Matt Delzell from the Marketing Arm, which manages the DBI. "You're talking about a guy who just goes about his job and doesn't look for media attention, doesn't demand the spotlight. I also think that's why he's considered a pretty likable guy."
It certainly helps that he's so active in social media. Thanks to his 680,000 followers on Twitter, Nike used him in a viral campaign called "Superstar Next Door," which garnered millions of hits. An app from Rock Software called The World Of Kevin Durant is on its way.
"He's real, what you see is what you get," said his agent, Eric Goodwin. "Think of Kevin as that guy that walks into the gym with the shoelaces of his sneakers tied around his neck. He's not going to be boisterous. But he will dependable like a hammer in your tool kit."
"For a pretty quiet guy in a small sports market, these are impressive scores.""
Despite the $60 million deal that Nike signed him for Durant wanted to be consistent with his "everyman" character. So he insisted that the shoe that they made for him was among the most affordable signature shoes that Nike sells. His Nike Zoom KD III's sell for $85.
"Everyone talks about small market," Goodwin said. "The athlete can add bigness to that small market. Look at what we did with Dwight in Orlando or LeBron in Cleveland."
If there's any area where Durant needs to improve it's awareness. Durant scored higher than the average NBA player in appeal, excitement and talent, according to the Nielsen/E-Poll N-Score. But he was lower than the average NBA player in awareness.
"His personality is not well known or understood," said Randy Parker, a spokesman for the poll. "What people know of him what they see is highlights. But as success on the court continues to go up, there's a lot of room to grow in the awareness category."
Beating the Mavericks and getting to the NBA Finals would surely help.
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