It Takes More Than Talent…

By Matter

We recognize that Matter Chatter’s been a little sports-heavy lately, but we’re unabashed fans here at Matter, so forgive us.   Besides, sports and sports celebrity give us a perfect eye into media trends that are absolutely applicable in the business environment.

Anyway, never one to pass up an opportunity to completely blow an hour of my life on something remarkably mundane – I tuned into ESPNU (the extension of the Worldwide Leader that serves as a 24/7 reminder of the hypocrisy that is modern college athletics) this week to watch their College Selection Show Special. The main event was clearly the LIVE announcement of where the top two high school ballers in the country – Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel – would choose to play their (likely) one year of college ball before quickly moving onto the NBA fortune and glory.

Both players are already getting off-the-charts publicity for high school players, and are being lauded as landscape-changing phenoms. Watching them mugging for the ESPN cameras on Wednesday, what struck me about both these headliners, both Muhammad and Noel, is how well-prepared both guys seemed for the onslaught that lies ahead, and how the big man Noel in particular has already learned how to market his talents to create a brand – with his head.

You see like him or not, you will now KNOW Nerlens Noel because of his hair.   A Google search of “Nerlens Noel’s hair” returned 57,000 results and 307 news hits.  He has likely been the most recognizable player on every basketball court he’s played on to date for the following reasons: 1) he’s 6’10’’ (and growing), 2) he’s immensely talented, 3) he’s got a flattop haircut that you could serve wine on.  And Wednesday night when he shaved the Kentucky logo into the back of head to announce his one-and-done school of choice (breaking the hearts of Georgetown fans and my fellow Orange faithful), he made sure that his brand was established for a good long time. width=

Mark my words – flattop wigs will be flying off the shelves in Lexington and whatever NBA city Noel ends up in 2014.  Noel’s silhouette will look perfect and perfectly distinctive on t-shirts, caps and Starter jackets everywhere. Yes, the ESPN haircut stunt was a silly conclusion to what has become an increasingly silly process, but believe me the hair thing is going to pay off for Nerlens Noel in the end.

To bring it back to business (which was the point here, right?), to win the media game and become a brand that people will gravitate towards – it takes more than talent.  It often takes more than a great idea.  It takes a few good “look at me” moments, plus a lot of charisma.  A willingness tobe in the spotlight, laugh at your own mistakes and exude confidence.  Some of the best brands thrive when their leaders know to always bring their best game, but try not to take it all too seriously and remember to have some fun.