This week is Beal Week at NBC Sports Washington. We are rolling out content each day centering around the Wizards' two-time All-Star shooting guard. Today, we look at how his rise on the court could help his cause off of it...
Bradley Beal has already joined the ranks of the NBA's upper echelon, having made two All-Star appearances by the age of 26 and last year falling just a few votes short of All-NBA honors. He has solidified himself as one of the elite shooting guards in the game and arguably a top-15 player overall.
But yet to catch up to his career on the court, one could argue, has been his marketability off of it. Unlike some of his All-Star peers, he doesn't have a signature shoe deal. He doesn't have national commercial spots like Chris Paul, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook.
Though those types of opportunities have yet to present themselves, Beal is brand conscious and believes he has a high upside in that world.
"I definitely want [my brand] to get bigger, for sure," Beal told NBC Sports Washington. "I think every player does. I feel like I have the face for it and the character for it. But I will never let it define me or make or break me in a way."
What Beal alluded to is easy to confirm. He is telegenic and looks the part of a pitchman. He also represents himself in a way that would make him a good ambassador to any company. He doesn't get in trouble or create controversy, and he is a clear communicator who speaks with confidence and maturity.
Yet, Beal's stardom has yet to fully take off. You can see it in All-Star fan voting where last year he finished behind guys like Jeremy Lin and Zach LaVine.
That doesn't mean Beal is devoid of business opportunities. He can already count an array of sponsors including Nike, Tissot watches, Pepsi and Muzik headphones. And as a famous person with money, he is pitched ideas all the time. Even during the interview for this story, a young man approached him asking for a Soundcloud mixtape shoutout.
But there is plenty of room for growth and Beal sees a lot of potential for himself.
"I definitely want to be branded, but if it's not a big brand, I'm not going after it. I'm definitely shooting for the stars," he said.
As for why Beal hasn't reached stardom in the marketing world, there could be several factors. For one, he plays for the Wizards and not a marquee NBA brand like the Lakers or Celtics.
With a lack of historic success as a franchise, Washington has rarely been a team in the national limelight over the years. Though, to be fair, that didn't hurt John Wall or Gilbert Arenas from getting their own signature shoes.
But during Beal's tenure, the Wizards have rarely been good enough to put him on a national stage. They have yet to advance past the second round of the playoffs. Maybe a conference finals berth someday would change things.
What would have been interesting is if Beal didn't drop out of Team USA competition for this summer's FIBA World Cup. With so many stars having left, he could have been one of the best players. But with his wife expecting their second child, he couldn't make the trip.
Another factor holding Beal back could be the simple fact he doesn't seek out attention. If you ask those close to him, that is the prevailing theory.
"He's a private person," his brother, Brandon, said. "I've said this for years and it's come to life. Brad doesn't care about being a celebrity. Brad cares about being a basketball player.
"It's a catch-22. It's like, if you don't market yourself, then who's going to buy your brand? But if you do market yourself, it's like 'he just wants to have attention.' You have to find that happy medium. I would love for Brad to have his name attached to those brands, but it's to tough to do with his personality which is 'I don't need to do go out there and do this.' I would love to see him grow more as a brand, and he will after [last] year."
"I think one of the coolest things about him is all he cares about is winning. He doesn't really care about what people think," Drew Hanlen, Beal's trainer, said.
"He turns down marketing deals, he turns down autograph deals where he could make more money because he wants to just be with his family or to take things more seriously. I think that hurts him come All-Star voting time when he doesn't get the fan recognition that he deserves. He's a guy that just cares about getting results and I think it's pretty unique how he does it."
Purposefully drawing attention, especially on social media, can be a powerful tool for athletes these days. Just look at Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid, who became a star on Twitter before he turned into one on the basketball court. Embiid is one of the best centers in the NBA, but there is no denying his platform is exponentially larger than it otherwise would be because of social media.
David Carter, a sports business professor at the University of Southern California, says players can essentially show companies their marketing worth with social media influence as a precursor to endorsement deals.
"The most relatable stars have developed and, in many cases, manufactured their personal brands in such a way as to be able to maximize their notoriety -- and their marketability," he said.
"These stars know fans live vicariously through them and that the leads to the ability to pitch products based upon the star's athletic skills and lifestyle."
Beal, of course, can help his cause just by becoming even better as a player. Last season, he just missed out on making All-NBA with the most votes of anyone who was left out.
Of the 15 players that made All-NBA last season, 10 of them have signature shoes. And of the six guards who made the cut, only one (Kemba Walker) doesn't have his own sneaker.
What could also help Beal is one of his new teammates. Rui Hachimura, the Wizards' 2019 first-round pick, is set to enter the NBA with a massive following in his home country of Japan. The Wizards' corporate office has already experienced a wave of partnership offers from companies in Asia.
The more international fans that watch the Wizards, the more that will see Beal. Carter explained how Hachimura's popularity could have a wide-reaching effect.
"Beyond raising the profile of his teammates and the team itself, Hachimura will also increase interest from sponsors. This will work both ways as Japanese companies hoping to market themselves in North America can use his support, while domestic companies can leverage his background to penetrate Asian markets. And, as the NBA continues its global growth, the ability to credibly market emerging talent will remain a priority," he said.
Some more NBA accolades and more international exposure could lead to the marketing opportunities Beal is hoping for. Maybe down the road that translates to national commercials or his own sneaker. Or, maybe it leads to something even bigger.
Beal tweeted earlier this summer that he would love to be an actor in 'Space Jam 2,' which is currently in development by a group that includes LeBron James. Perhaps Hollywood comes calling someday.
"They're already doing a 'Space Jam 2.' He could do the 'He Got Game 2,'" Brandon Beal said. "He's already the second coming of Ray Allen, anyways."
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