There is more to modern-day sports figures than just their impressive athletic performances.
Athletes are dedicated to their personal brand more than ever before, and earning that off-the-court recognition has become just as essential as the on-court product.
That’s why sports agencies like BDA Sports Management have become indispensable for athletes.
“We focus on strategic partnerships that will amplify a client’s visibility while developing organic brand recognition,” said Shauna Smith, vice president and chief strategy officer at BDA. “With the steady influx and growth of personalities in our industry, staying relevant and interesting is imperative for lasting success in the marketplace.”
BDA is a full-service basketball agency with U.S. and international branches that represent clients in their on-court endeavors, as well as marketing, public relations, community relations, and brand development.
As a firm, BDA strives to know its clients inside and out — their interests, stories that make them unique, and the personal image they want to portray. With that knowledge, BDA works with various organizations to secure activations and partnerships for its clients.
Many ideas for those activations arise organically. For example, BDA client and Phoenix Sun Deandre Ayton loves music, especially Caribbean beats that remind him of his Bahamian roots, so the BDA team was inspired to pursue a partnership with Spotify. It recently secured an opportunity for Ayton to become the first individual athlete to curate his own #GameDay playlist on the music streaming service.
“Watching Deandre be so engaged and have so much fun selecting his songs made me so proud,” said Arielle Moyal, the BDA marketing and PR coordinator who spearheaded the project. “He loves music, all types, so being given an opportunity to create something that highlighted that passion and had a cultural spin was incredible. The playlist was received very well, so kudos to a company like Spotify for believing in the project and supporting the fun we wanted to have with it.”
Another recent BDA activation highlighted the Chicago Bulls’ Zach LaVine and his interest in American Sign Language and working with the deaf community.
“There are not a lot of pro athletes working with or representing the deaf community, so Zach has a lot of ownership in that space,” Moyal said. “He has a natural connection and passion for the community, and as a firm, we’ve worked really hard to have him recognized as the go-to guy in the NBA for raising awareness and support for their needs and initiatives.”
After learning that Starbucks would be opening a signing/ASL location in Washington D.C., BDA reached out to have LaVine partner with the brand in a social campaign, where he signed a special message in ASL.
The video was shared on his own social platforms, as well as the Starbucks channels. Moyal explained that the activation provided both personal fulfillment for LaVine, as well as publicity from a large brand, giving him exposure to an audience that he normally wouldn’t have.
Another part of BDA’s role means knowing how and when to push the athletes out of their comfort zone. Building trusting relationships with clients is key.
“You want the ability to present unique opportunities and know the client is willing to take that leap because we have their best interests at heart,” Moyal said.
BDA capitalized on that trust with its client Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic, who considers himself an environmental enthusiast, but had a tendency to keep his off-court interests private. With a bit of reassurance, Vucevic made a guest appearance on the animated TV show “Planet Blue” through an activation secured by BDA.
“We knew we needed to support him, and part of that meant encouraging him to use his platform to bring awareness to causes he felt were important,” Moyal said. “We told him, ‘This will get you out of your comfort zone, but you’ll be respected for it.’”
In addition to earning its clients’ confidence, the BDA staff must also be ready for opportunities to arise at any moment.
“You never know where inspiration is going to strike,” Moyal said. “You have to be prepared for all of that. We like to tell brands, ‘Give me your funky, weird, obscure ideas because I probably have a client for that.’”
BDA’s wide range of activations is proof that a diverse skill set is necessary to succeed in the sports agency field. Most important, though, is an emphasis on the client.
“You have to be on at all times,” Moyal said. “It’s a client-based business, so the first thing you recognize in our job is ‘client first’ — always.”