Ty Lawson's Vision Already Goes Beyond Basketball

Ty Lawson's quickness led North Carolina to a national title. Now he wants companies to identify him with "speed."
Ty Lawson's quickness led North Carolina to a national title. Now he wants companies to identify him with "speed." (By Paul Sancya -- Associated Press)
By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The decision before Ty Lawson related to basketball -- the sport that soon would become his profession -- only inasmuch as it pertained to Ty Lawson. Seated at a conference table inside his agent's ninth-floor office, Lawson munched on a chicken wrap and barbeque chips while staring at a computer screen that offered a glimpse into what would help transform a point guard into a brand.

Three representatives from the creative agency D*mngood had crafted three versions of an intro sequence to a Web site that would bear Lawson's name, feature Lawson's merchandise and publish Lawson's blog. The young entrepreneurs, each wearing jeans, sport coats, sideburns and black spiked hair, anticipated Lawson's reaction. He preferred a photo montage timed to the beat of hip-hop music preceding the lines of a basketball court being drawn on the screen.

The representatives nodded in agreement. At that point, the NBA draft was 22 days away, and already Lawson was being immersed in marketing plans and public image creation. On Thursday, Lawson almost certainly will become a first-round draft pick, and no matter in which city he lands, a campaign designed to boost his fame and prosperity will be set to launch.

Over the past month, Lawson, a Clinton, native, has participated in 12 NBA team workouts, an exhausting tour across the country. He remains focused -- per the instruction of his agent, Jeff Fried -- on showing off his incendiary quickness and improved shooting touch in front of league executives. But a secondary goal has formed as well.

"There's no downside to him learning about the business side of basketball at an early age," Fried said. "He can only mature as a professional on and off the court by being exposed at this early stage."

So Lawson gets to make directional decisions, such as which intro he wants on display when fans arrive at his Web site. He provides input on the logo he hopes will become a second form of identity. He agrees that establishing two Facebook accounts -- one for personal use and another to drive traffic to the Web site -- is a good idea. "We need to get you some business cards, something to start branding you," said Daniel Adler, D*mngood's executive creative director. "You're like a business now. Ty Lawson is a business."

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Witnesses to Lawson's immense quickness include those who watched the NCAA title game in April, when Lawson tallied a championship game-record eight steals while leading North Carolina to victory.

They also include those in attendance at last month's pre-draft camp in Chicago, where Lawson ran a faster three-quarter length sprint (3.12 seconds) than any other point guard expected to be selected in the first round.

If all goes according to plan, the audience that associates Lawson with "speed" will grow exponentially in the coming years. Fried said many of the branding opportunities initially afforded to Lawson will be linked by the player's greatest on-court asset.

"There are different companies in industries connected with speed" that are interested in using Lawson as a pitchman, Fried said. "Mobile phones, you know, with the instant communication. The airline industry is all about getting there quickly. Apparel and shoe companies, as well."

Fried also wants his client to learn how business transactions take place. While continuing to hone his game, Lawson is being groomed to understand the basics of commercial endeavors, from marketing plans to financial projections.

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