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OKC Thunder's Kevin Durant turning into a marketing monster

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY, Staff Writer, dmayberry@opubco.com Published: December 3, 2011
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His enthusiasm is endearing, his humbleness is honorable, his image is immaculate and his skills are sensational.

Together, these are the things experts say have turned Kevin Durant into a marketing monster.

Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder star entering his fifth NBA season, has quickly become the perfect pitchman, with a total package that is both attractive to elite companies and appealing to every day consumers.

“When you look at him, I think what you see is his genuine enthusiasm for the game of basketball, which I think is important when you look at the bad taste that this lockout might have left with some fans,” said Dr. Stephen McDaniel, who studies sports and entertainment marketing at the University of Maryland.

Durant's endorsement portfolio includes Nike, Gatorade, Electronic Arts, Panini America, Degree Men and Skullcandy.

When Durant's new Nike commercial “Paint the town” made its television debut last Sunday, though, the ad immediately became Durant's biggest splash onto the national scene. Right away, it generated rave reviews across the spectrum, from sports commentators to social critics.

While criticizing Durant for playing flag football this week, ESPN First Take's Skip Bayless couldn't help but admire the ad that shows Durant driving around Oklahoma City in the middle of the night searching high and low for a pickup game.

“I can believe that is Kevin Durant,” Bayless said, “because I can see him driving a van through the countryside just looking for a game because all he wants to do is play basketball.”

Cultural critic Toure recently posted similar approval to his Twitter account.

“The Kevin Durant ad where he's driving around finding little pickup games and playing with anyone is beautiful. #LoveOfTheGame” he wrote.

Steve Tebon, CEO of Florida-based Game ON Sports Marketing and author of the book Game ON: The Power of the Sports Marketing Deal, said Durant's performance is what has consumers convinced his passion is real.

“He's matured pretty nicely since he came out (of college) early,” said Tebon. “But he's just a good ballplayer. That really helps. Credibility is on the court.”

Tebon added that Durant's appearance — most notably his lack of visible tattoos —and his style of play also have factored into his appeal.

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