Last week, I wrote about John Wall’s new site and his “JW2” moniker. Wall’s entrance into initials-based branding drew some interest — and a few questions — so I figured I should find out more about what’s behind this new marketing push.
The logical conclusion after speaking with Wall was that the “JW2” branding and #WALLin social media tag were products of Adidas marketing, because of their similarities to fellow Adidas athlete Robert Griffin III’s “RGIII” and #allin tag. But when I contacted Adidas on Thursday for clarification, they directed me to Nclusive, the digital agency responsible for Wall’s site.
“Actually, the #WallIn campaign was based around the idea that he had actually been injured in the beginning of the year, and we came up with some ideas that, you know, how do you get across the idea that John’s coming back,” explained Justin Giangrande, the chief operating officer at Nclusive. “Our creative team actually came up with that “#WALLin” campaign. It just so happens that I think Adidas is doing something similar and he happens to be an Adidas athlete as well.”
Giangrande also explained that the “JW2” concept was also organic, and not meant to play off of “RGIII.” While neither of those athletes is the first to use their initials as a marketing tool — Chris Paul’s “CP3,” for example – the fact that both play in the same market and endorse the same shoe company will make it difficult to recognize “RGIII” and “JW2” as independent marketing efforts.
Evidence of this came just a day after last week’s post, when Tony Kornheiser saw the item and criticized Wall’s marketing team for using “JW2.”
“If I were John Wall, I would not allow them to market me in that way,” he said on his ESPN 980 show Thursday morning. “The marketers, I think, are doing their job. But what I would say if I were John Wall is, there’s a guy in town that’s got initials and a number. I want to get away from this.”
Kornheiser’s assumption was that the “2” referred to Wall being a junior, and meant to mimic “RGIII”. When he learned that the “2” could also represent Wall’s jersey number, he retracted his criticism, but the initial confusion exposed a potential obstacle for Wall’s non-Adidas marketing team.
There are other signs that the branding could use some fine tuning. According to the folks at Nclusive, the site is designed to be the first and best place to go for Wall news, information and launches.
“The whole thing is supposed to be that this is innovative to where he can really release his next shoe with Adidas on his own personal site,” said Jess Richman, CEO of Nclusive. “He can sell his own shoes on his site. And then like, it’s just more him building his own brand, and his own company, per se, by himself.”
It sounds good, but when Wall launched his first shoe with Adidas last Thurday night, the shoe company opted not to utilize the site to announce the launch, and as of this posting the only mention of the shoe on the site is a link to a picture of them Wall posted on Instagram.
All of this isn’t uncommon for a sports culture in which a star athlete might have a manager, an agent, publicist, multiple sponsors and a marketing team with different goals and agendas. Unfortunately for Wall, he shares a market with well-branded athletes like Griffin and Bryce Harper, whose marketing machines were operating before they were even pros.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if they call him JW2, Jimmy, J-dub, or anything else. The success of Wall’s brand will directly mirror his success on the court, just like any other marketable athlete.