Inside the Marketing Evolution of Giannis Antetokounmpo


*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else. 

Fluent in Spanish, Italian, Greek and English, and comfortable speaking Portuguese and Japanese, Alex Saratsis sounds more like a state official than a basketball agent.
Instead, Saratsis, the Senior Director of Global Operations for Octagon Basketball, has used those skills to establish the framework for Octagon’s international basketball operations and develop strategic partnerships across Europe, Asia, and South America.

Ahead of this weekend’s NBA All-Star Game, we caught up with him to see what it has been like to represent one of the brightest young stars in the game, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

In your time working with Giannis, how have you seen him evolve when it comes to his off the court interests and how he views his endeavors outside of the game?

“Giannis has two main interests: basketball and family. Everything he does, his whole world, revolves around that. He understands that if he’s not great on the court, then he’s not doing anything off the court. As he’s grown in the league, those two constants have remained the same. Now, he’s also focusing on his foundation and giving back. A lot of charitable programs supported him growing up, especially local food donations, and he wants to ensure he’s repaying the favor.”

The argument against Giannis being a household name is because he plays in a small market. How have you guys flipped that script?

“Giannis is a GLOBAL star. The focus for Giannis has always been global, start in Greece, and expand throughout Europe. At home in Greece, he’s on the news every single day. We have always believed that Giannis was going to be an athlete who would transcend his market.”

“In the US, we have found opportunities that really show off his personality so fans can get to know him. Whether it’s his personal journey from Greece to the United States, which was highlighted by 60 Minutes, or his fun, goofy personality shown in ads and commercials, we want fans to get to know Giannis the person just as well as they know Giannis the basketball star.”

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How has working with Giannis made you better?

“One – Giannis and I share the same philosophy, it doesn’t matter where you are in your life, you always treat people kindly and with respect. Giannis is the same person he is today as when I first met him at 17 years old. It doesn’t matter how big of a superstar he is, he will always look you in the eye and be respectful. He is a constant reminder to me about how to carry yourself.”

“Two – I have a new perspective on time management. There are always people who want something from Giannis and I have to make sure we are as efficient as possible with every single decision that is made around his career.”

In 2019, how do you see Giannis’ brand evolving?

“Giannis will be expanding his reach on a philanthropic level, he’s really passionate about that. As a professional athlete, it takes a few years to figure out what you want to do in the community and the best way to make the most impact.”

“Giannis wants to do more in Africa, again focusing globally, and grow his foundation work in Greece and the United States. Also, as we are sharing more of Giannis’ personality with the world, strategic content development will play a key role over the next several years.”

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.