Original Post in Forbes.com 5/29/2015 at 3:47PM.
There is a new team on the block in the NBA Finals and they have an electrifying style of play and two fresh-faced stars. This series is the Golden State Warriors' opportunity to play on the national stage and captivate public attention. The NBA Finals may not have the audience of a Super Bowl, but it draws viewers and attention that the regular season does not. It allows individual players to brand themselves, setting the stage for endorsement riches.
LeBron James is carrying the Cleveland Cavaliers on his back as he dominates the court. LeBron is ubiquitous. His massive endorsement package has him ever present on television and print. It is hard to escape the high profile mega-presence of James, but League MVP Steph Curry and sharpshooting Klay Thompson are escaping James' shadow week by week.
The Warriors play a riveting style of basketball. Many of their home games don't register as well nationally because they are in the West Coast time zone. Curry and Thompson hit dramatic long range shots that create a "Wow" factor. While a dramatic dunk may elicit the highest fan reaction, long range bombs are a close second in evoking fan and viewer response. Curry and Thompson are clean-cut role models that a father can proudly ask his son to emulate.
Steph Curry, the son of NBA player Dell Curry, fought his way up the basketball ladder. His diminutive size created doubters and he starred at small school Davidson. His story is one that the public can relate to. Everyone that was told they didn't fit the mold to be super-achievers can find inspiration in his success. His jersey was the regular season runner-up to James in sales. He is the top selling NBA player since January on Fanatics.com, a huge online sports retailer. He has a bundle of endorsements: Degree, Express, State Farm Insurance, Muscle Milk, JBL Headphones. His Under Armour "Curry One" campaign has been highly successful. This series will vault him to higher levels of branding.
Klay Thompson is a handsome role-model with dramatic flair. His father, former #1 selection Mychal Thompson, starred for the Trailblazers and Lakers and is currently a Los Angeles talk show host as well as the radio color voice of the Lakers. This series is Thompson's opportunity to brand himself and create his own stardom alongside Curry's. Thompson signed a major endorsement deal with Body Armor Sports Drink. Should Thompson maintain his high level of play in the Finals, more endorsements are sure to follow.
The NBA Championship series begins this Thursday in Oakland at Oracle Arena. Players that perform magnificently on this larger stage can cross over into audiences that are not NBA fanatics and become household names. Even though the NFL is the dominant professional sport in this country, their players wear helmets and facemasks. In the NBA, the players are closer to the seats with their face and body on display. The bond is more intimate. A celebrity making machine will follow the series with dozens of mainstream television shows, magazines, and newspapers promoting the stars.
This is a golden opportunity for the Warriors organization, and the platform necessary to launch their two great stars on and off the court to new heights.