The Kevin Durant Brand
by John A. Gutierrez
An observation of Kevin Durant’s consistent progression and development in the NBA. Fans have seen not only growth as an athlete, but also as a leader on and off the court. Kevin Durant positions himself as a man of the people and a professional in basketball. He inspires, he challenges, and he teaches. In his 10 years, Kevin Durant now symbolizes various concepts to his international audience. An assessment of commercials and interviews featuring Kevin Durant show that he is a motivator and competitor.
Since being drafted 2nd overall to the Supersonics in the 2007 draft, KD is often placed second in comparison to athletes like Lebron James. His chosen moniker, "the Servant", shows his dedication to himself and all those that support him. Often times, Kevin Durant’s humility overshadows the work he placed into developing his gifts. In a public statement, he stated that he is done with being second. The Kevin Durant that we see in 2017 shows it.
From his rookie year to his current role with the Golden State Warriors, Durant has quietly created changes in his game and mentality that has consistently elevated his maturity. With the disappearance of his inhibition, KD went from a student of the game to a general on the floor. He became a vocal leader to improve himself and his teammates. In 2016, after the Christmas Day loss that the Warriors received against the Cavaliers, Durant told interviewers that the loss was because he failed. He continued and said “...I didn’t fail alone” as a critique of the teammates who did not execute effectively during the game. With his leadership role, Kevin Durant grapples multiple challenges not only with basketball, but also with publicity, sponsorships, and his personal life.
In 2013, Gatorade produced a commercial that offers insight into competition and self-motivation to gain achievements in the NBA. Dwayne Wade blocks an in-game dunk he throws down. Suddenly, KD wakes from a nightmare and gets to training which culminates in an actual slam on Wade; which is actually just Wade having a nightmare. This showed a mature mental level within Kevin Durant.
In December 2015, Nike debuted the Bring Your Game campaign, showing youthful fans visiting with their favorites from the NBA. In a segment featuring Kevin Durant, the superstar athlete dunks on his visitors to welcome them inside his secret training facility. KD’s personal assistant even gifts them with photographs of them getting posterized by the superstar athlete himself. This spot is also a creative brand strategy to further distance himself from the 2007 Kevin Durant perceived as the “kid” while still showing he is sure to create time for his fans while maintaining a busy schedule.
Strengthening his identity as an older more mature Kevin Durant, his Twitter, @KDTrey5, now features photographs and promotional materials that illustrate his personal development. Images that are posted to his account are even further distanced from the Kevin Durant that was in the Bring Your Game campaign from just two years ago. Photographic sets are no longer filled with props and fanciful lighting. Now, they are beautifully composed on location photographs that are crafted to seem like documentary photography, if not documentary photography itself. Content of the photographs shows KD expanding his branding beyond basketball and athletics. He is showing the world that Kevin Durant manages to have many endeavors. What these photographs do not illustrate is the management team that Kevin Durant has to support him with each move.
What affords Durant to position his brand identity this way is the amount of dedication and work ethic that he places into preparation and readiness to create positive results while his management team schedules and communicates with his sponsors. While Kevin Durant was cultivating his skills as a professional athlete within training facilities, his management team was helping him purchase a home for his move to the Bay Area. It is more difficult to observe the management team, but for any professional athlete, they are a valuable resource that can result in a successful life after professional sports.
Photos by: Jake Michaels for the New York Times, Unknown, and Nike