The NBA creates more brand-ready athletes than any other sports league. Thanks to a young digital audience, no headgear to obscure player’s faces and the league’s focus on making NBA content available all over social media, NBA stars have taken over commercial breaks.
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Damian Lillard, LeBron James, James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo all feature in at least one national ad. And don’t forget Shaquille O’Neal, despite retiring nearly a decade ago, he is still on TV every half hour. But no player is such a testament to the NBA’s brand-making potential as Kawhi Leonard.
The defending NBA Finals MVP is one of the best players in the league, but he’s as quiet as athletes come. Last year, a video of his laugh went viral because it was so rare.
That didn’t stop Honey, an online plugin that scans the internet for coupon codes, from tapping Leonard as the face of their first national campaign after being acquired by Paypal for $4B.
“Kawhi may seem like an unexpected partner, but we have a shared mindset that saving money is for everyone,” said Chiyong Jones, Honey’s vp of creative. “This first commercial is a nod to Kawhi’s simplistic style and just how easy it is to use Honey.”
That first ad is by far the most lines he delivers in any of the four 30-second ads. In two of the spots, Leonard doesn’t even say any words; he stares deadpan at the camera or holds his signature laugh for just a few seconds too long.
The final ad shows why Leonard actually made a lot of sense for Honey. It’s a simple product, and his dull-but-in-a-funny-way delivery showcases that simplicity.
“I only work with brands that I personally use and believe in,” said Leonard. “I like Honey’s product because it’s free and it saves you money. It’s that simple.”
The Paypal acquisition has moved Honey from sponsoring YouTube videos to tapping an NBA superstar for a series of ads. They chose an unlikely partner, but any NBA superstar is going to be a solid brand spokesperson at this point—even a quiet one.