Making it in the NBA 2K League is going to come down to skill in NBA 2K18. But separating oneself from other draftees will require a totally different skill: marketability.
One key to achieving that is finding a way to stand out, according to Justin M. Jacobson, a New York-based attorney who specializes in entertainment, sports and esports player representation.
“With any talent-driven industry, it’s all about being a personality. You are not just a 2K person,” Jacobson said. “I think that what is valuable, and how you kinda stand apart, is by having a marketable personality.”
One’s marketability will be a key factor for future league members. The 2K League will allow its players to earn individual endorsement deals outside of team contracts and sponsorship deals, under certain guidelines, league managing director Brendan Donohue previously stated. It makes the possibilities of earning outside income nearly limitless.
Developing that marketability can be done through a number of ways, including certain mannerisms or even a catchphrase that a player comes to be associated with, Jacobson said. He likened it to what is seen with the WWE.
“So what’s going to set people apart and give them standalone marketing ability and potential sponsors is the persona that they create,” Jacobson said. “And that kinda goes into the whole WWE where you have The Rock and Triple H, who have these personas and a song and stories. That’s what draws people in and that’s staying power.”
So why is it important to stand out for something other than strictly your skills in the game?
“Because we’re getting to the level where everyone is going to be pretty technically even,” Jacobson said. “There will be kids that are a bit better, but once you get to a certain level, everyone is pretty much close.”
The global popularity of both the NBA and esports mean 2K League members have the ability to become a household name, if they market themselves properly.
“I think you definitely have the opportunity to develop into this kinda Yao Ming, quintessential, you’re big in your home market but because the Internet makes you global you’re able to find fans all over the place,” Jacobson said.
It all starts with players’ online presence, whether it be social media or live streams on Twitch. NBA 2K League team directors have long called for hopefuls to be aware of what they are putting out as a representation of their brands.
“You just have to think that you’re pretty much a Disney audience,” Jacobson said. “Because if you’re not like that, you are going to polarize and alienate a lot of potential people, and the NBA is such a mainstream property that like Cokes and Pepsis and these major Fortune 500 brands, they can get involved.”
At the end of the day, marketability can be simplified to how players represent themselves in public and their ability to give fans and peers alike something to latch onto.
“Who you are. The story. That’s what gives you staying power,” Jacobson said. “They are always interested in the story.”