A few weeks ago, I traveled to the US Lacrosse National Convention in Philadelphia. It’s the world’s largest gathering of lacrosse minds networking and sharing information to grow the game. This year, I attended not only as a lacrosse player and Sycamore High School Varsity coach but as an LPK designer who spent the past year working with our partners at STX to help shape Kyle Harrison’s STX-sponsored K18 line extension.
Throughout the past year, working with STX has given me an up-close-and-personal view of how their strong spokesperson relationship with Harrison has benefited their brand.
Spokespeople are ambassadors who can help bring a brand to life. They serve to personify a brand’s core attributes and lead a lifestyle that consumers of the brand aspire to achieve. Signing celebrities with their own fan bases helps a brand draw in additional audiences, increasing their reach, like Lil Wayne and Mountain Dew.
When a spokesperson’s public career and private life are thriving, it adds positive exposure for the brand based on association. Adidas recently ran an entire advertising campaign following the injury rehabilitation of NBA star Derrick Rose, holding to messaging of “belief” and “hope.”
And of course, when the opposite happens—the spokesperson falters in either their career or private life, like Lance Armstrong (Nike) or Chris Brown (Wrigley)—the risks are huge. These missteps can lead to eliminated contracts, lawsuits and gobs of negative publicity for the brands.
Regardless of the risks, today’s brands continue to sink money into spokespeople for added value that ultimately leads to more people buying into the product or service.
STX is no exception. But Kyle Harrison is not your average lacrosse star: an African American lacrosse superstar in a predominately white sport, who—while from Baltimore— has lived in California for years, over 2,000 miles away from the sport’s hotbed. He’s an athlete—not your typical single-minded sports personality in the least—with multifaceted interests and passions: from family, to music (he has his own Beats by Dre headphones) and an occasional pair of Nikes.
Professional athletes are often the highest in demand—and most scrutinized—brand spokespeople. Their natural abilities are almost magical and everyone wants a piece of elite athletes. This lifestyle can leave athletes bitter, aloof or annoyed at the public spotlight; they’re here to play their sport for a living, not be a celebrity.
For any brand that wagers their reputation on an individual, there are serious risks and rewards.
So it’s impressive when an athlete, like lacrosse star and STX-sponsored athlete Kyle Harrison, sacrifices what little personal time they still possess for the betterment of others and the game of lacrosse. And Harrison does it with a smile.
Harrison honors his talent by spreading his knowledge and passion for the sport to those who otherwise might not have the opportunity. Harrison tirelessly promotes the game of lacrosse, which is in the midst of a major period of growth across the United States and around the world. He relentlessly holds clinics, meet-and-greets and plays for LXM PRO—a professional lacrosse league he co-founded—in mid-major markets. The sport is growing for kids in different regions, financial backgrounds and ethnicities. Harrison has dedicated himself to introducing and improving the game for kids in all of those categories.
Harrison is also as approachable online as he is off, often responding via Twitter and Facebook to his fans and engaging in conversation with them. This multisensorial approachability and experience benefits the STX brand just as much as it benefits him.
Harrison personifies STX by being a successful, elite lacrosse player. He’s a member of Team USA and boasts a National Championship and our sport’s Heisman—the Tewaaraton trophy. His work ethic echoes the STX message of “Never Stop,” as he appears to never be satisfied with his abilities. He not only has talent but works to hone his skills and athleticism to elevate his game.
Harrison is future-focused like STX, constantly doing things to move the game forward and better tomorrow’s lacrosse players. Lacrosse has an unflattering reputation at times of having a “party culture,” but you never hear of Kyle out in clubs, getting in trouble or making bad choices publicly. He’s focused on being a true role model, representing a bright culture for the game. Kyle Harrison and his K18 brand keep the STX brand alive and fresh and give it an added personality and approachability.
It’s brand/spokesperson relationships like this one that exemplify the model. Mutually beneficial brand sponsorships show a high level of support to a famous personality, cause, campaign or lifestyle. It provides a platform for these famous personalities to flourish and pursue their goals and helps “tune in” more people to a brand’s own voice.