“Practice?” begins perhaps the most famous rant in history.
“We’re sitting here … I’m supposed to be the franchise player, and we’re in here talking about practice. I mean, listen, we’re talking about practice. Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We’re talking about practice. Not a game. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game. We’re talking about practice, man.”
The retired professional basketball player Allen Iverson may have been the most unique brand in marketing history. With his slight build, cornrows, ubiquitous tattoos, and rakish charm, Iverson’s uniquely authentic brand is equal parts Tupac and Peter Pan.
He would neither give up or grow up.
Iverson’s iconoclastic brand sold a lot of season tickets, sneakers, socks and jerseys by appealing to two seemingly irreconcilable audiences: a largely African-American hip hop generation, and–similar to Larry Bird– a white, ethnic working class cohort represented by Philadelphia’s blue-collar neighborhoods. And while it may seem counterintuitive for an athlete who was once jailed for a high school brawl, Iverson’s blend of Bad Boy Charm and Everyman’s quotidian struggles made him a marketer’s dream, in no small part because his appeal was strongest among high-value consumers between the ages of 16 and 34.
Iverson’s success in the marketplace is evidence that the best brands don’t always come from cerntral casting; sometimes they come from real life.