Estimated reading time: 3 minute 19 seconds
Sports combines, team workouts, and various clinics and camps can be a "win or go home" marketing and brand strategy for many young athletes looking to make it to the professional leagues. Stay with me as I explain how and why.
Over the past two days, the Professional Basketball Combine (PBC) has been taking place at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, featuring LiAngelo Ball (and Lavar Ball), Brandon Sampson, Victor Sanders, Egot Koulechov, and many more great athletes. Unlike the NBA Draft Combine, the PBC gives athletes who did not receive an invitation or could not make it to the draft combine or who are not getting much attention from NBA scouts, a chance to showcase their talents for some of the top NBA teams. According to the PBC, "each player who attends has the opportunity to participate in private workouts and scrimmages, do combine testing, and interview for NBA GMs, NBA scouts, G-League personnel and overseas opportunities..."
In speaking with PBC founder Jake Kelfer before the second annual PBC event, Kelfer spoke on the success and goals of the 2017 Professional Basketball Combine. "The 2017 PBC was an incredible success, and I couldn't be more thankful for how it turned out! One of my goals was to create something that would positively impact the NBA pre-draft process, and that's exactly what we did." Kelfer would go on to state that "of the 23 players we had participate, 4 signed two-way contracts, 11 signed G-League contracts, and 8 signed international contracts. One of our players, Antonio Blakeney, even went on to win G-League Rookie of the Year."
With accomplishments that met and raised standards for the 2018 PBC, this year's event was sure to capitalize on the success of 2017 both of the court and off the court.
Regarding brand development and awareness, the PBC, like any other performance event, should be regarded as a critical event in the marketing and branding strategy of all athletes who attend. Yes, athletes should focus on displaying their talents to the best of their abilities. However, every event that an athlete participates in should focus on reinforcing their brand.
In covering the Professional Basketball Combine from afar, I noticed how much care went into the players as they showcased their talents and how engaging the event was on social media (Instagram and Twitter) regarding video content and making sure that each player received the same amount of attention socially. This engagement is especially beneficial because it helps the athletes with their brand strategy (whether they realize it or not). I could tell that the PBC aimed to get equal exposure for all of their participants which is something you do not often find at other sports combines.
In the words of Jeremy Darlow, "brands win championships." As an athlete, your brand is on display 24/7; on the court, at an event, on social media, or walking your dog down the street. Athletes should view every second as an opportunity to document and show who they indeed are (their brand) and what better time than on one of the biggest stages of their career. Branding yourself as an athlete is one thing, but branding yourself as an athlete who understands the importance of marketing, longevity, and consistency within a career is something different, and PBC gives young athletes a chance to demonstrate that ability both on and off the court.
Now, diving into the marketing and branding strategy and tactics of the PBC itself, they did not disappoint on their own accord. Being that the PBC is in its second year, I saw some great sponsors activations throughout the event.
PBC made sure to showcase their sponsors on social media with branded content such as pictures of promotional items from MVMT, the 2018 PBC official gear sponsored by Eastbay, photos featuring IMG Academy's big blue chair, and of the players enjoying HFactor Hydrogen Water.
Going back to making sure each participant had equal amounts of exposure. PBC had athletes take pictures and videos for their Instagram Story and also had the athletes sign the story. Those stories could be something that PBC adds to their archives as a first signature before the athlete makes it in the league. The Professional Basketball Combine also featured HFactor Hydrogen Water in a sponsor activation to give away an exclusive PBC jersey signed by all 24 participants. Again, developing the athletes' brand and awareness while also doing the same for the event and its sponsors.
From a sports marketing and sports business perspective, the Professional Basketball Combine did a great job including all of their athletes and helping to activate their sponsors. In just a few days, their following, awareness, and engagement grew tremendously on a local and national level, going on to show that an event with the proper marketing and branding strategy can sustain the brand of that event and its participants, locally and nationally.
For more information on the PBC and official combine stats, visit the links below.
Pictures via @ProBBallCombine
PBC Founder, Jake Kelfer