As legend has it, a gaggle of players was assembled in the locker room awaiting the start of the NBA All-Star game’s three-point shooting contest when Larry Bird walked in.
“So,” he said with a broad grin, “who’s playing for second?”
Perhaps as much as his basketball acumen–he did indeed go on to win the three-point shooting contest that day– the predicate for Larry the Legend’s iconic brand was his swagger.
It was an unlikely swagger: in a world of fast, agile black men who could seemingly jump out of the gym, Bird was a lumbering white guy who might not have been able to clear a shoe box in a single bound. The “Hick from French Lick” plied his trade in a blue collar town, Boston, and the combination of his lunch pail work ethic and outsized bravado made him a one-of-a-kind brand, a combination of Rocky Balboa and Appollo Creed.
This hybrid quality helped make Bird a successful pitchman, selling virtually everything under the sun to consumers, from Lays potato chips to McDonald’s, Converse shoes to Nestle candy bars, blue jeans to Ford Escorts to heating pads.
Part of his appeal was his apparent unease in front of the camera – he always left the impression he’d rather be fishing in an Indiana creek or playing some pickup basketball – which is a reminder of the importance of voice and authenticity in creating compelling marketing content.