As we near the Presidential election I keep waiting for President Obama or Governor Romney to invoke the name of R.A. Dickey as they search to find metaphors to engage casual voters in their narrative. They have used various platforms to gain support tied to sport…Olympics, NASCAR, hoops, golf, some baseball…but not yet the knuckleballing Cy Young Award candidate for the New York Mets. Why would they be interested in the Dickey story? Let’s see. he is a thirtysomething white male who has overcome great adversity to find an entreprenurial way to succeed in his field against great odds. He is an Olympic athlete, an All-American, a father, a success story on the largest of stages, a great positive example of the American Dream. He has string ties to the south but works in the most urban of environs, he is not flashy or overstated, he doesn’t look or act like an elite athlete…he goes to work and gets his job done. Sound like a good story to bring up on the campaign trail? It’s also why the brand of R.A. Dickey may be the best brand to come out of another exciting season of the business of baseball
I am a little biased being a Mets fan and also having worked on the “Knuckleball” film project the past few months. However it is because of that exposure that the Dickey brand looks ripe to be engaged. Here are some other thoughts as to why.
By luck and determination, the multi-media side of Dickey is already accessible to anyone who wants it anywhere. This past spring, Dickey’s life story was written by Wayne Coffey, detailing not just his on-field experiences but his struggle to overcome family and personal issues and his belief in using his fame, which was limited at the time, for a great good. Then you have the fortutious opening of the documentary “Knuckleball,” which tells the story of Dickey and the other knuckleballers BEFORE all the hype and success arrived this year. It gives anyone a chance to see these players and their stories really unvarnished and in many cases away from the limelight. It is not a forced rush to production to capitalize on Dickey’s run this year…it all takes place BEFORE, giving his appeal even more universality.
With all due respect to Gio Gonzalez and the Washington Nationals, Dickey has achieved his success this year in the biggest media market with a team that is greatly challenged to win. He does not have the support of the Nationals hitters and he does have the brightest of lights shone on him…that makes his success this year all the more marketable. That potential 20th win and a potential Cy Young Award also is great for brand baseball. Like it or not, winning in New York helps lift the tide of the sport.
While he pitches in new York, it is also of great appeal that Dickey is not just a New Yorker. He has strong ties to Tennessee, and to the many stops where he has left his mark across the country. That means that brands don’t have to worry about his appeal being just to Madison Avenue. his workman like approach and his surprising success can make him interesting to everything from tool companies to media brands…he is well spoken with a solid social media following as well. His appeal to faith-based programs will also make him very appealing on the speaking circuit and could even tie him to other brands (Chick-Fil-A anyone?) and his interest in young people and education will also give his upcoming children’s book (another gift of great timing) another bounce when it comes out.And for the video game generation? The knuckleball is tailor-made for all the nuances of online engagement and fun.
Sure there may be a worry that Dickey’s amazing year may be just that…a one trick pony. However a 20 game win season does have long-term brand value no matter what comes next, and a Cy Young Award will help to double down on any brand looking to hitch on very soon. There is also a feeling that throwing a knuckleball at 37 will give Dickey another strong set of years ahead of him, as the pitch doesn’t destroy the arm or diminish with age. There is always risk with athletes, but with someone like R.A. Dickey, it seems the reward can outweigh the risk. By the way, Dickey himself also has to buy-in to the hype and support the brands who want to support him as well, an element that still has to be examined, but one that should be able to be overcome.
There are many splashy and sexy stars who have emerged from this season… the great Trout of the Angels, Harper and Strasburg of the Nats, the ever-interesting cast of the Giants, the Tigers’ Verlander and on and on. However when the dust settles, and if he can get umber 20, R.A. dickey’s everyman story may trump them all for the year and may just be the one that brand marketers will talk about as the all-encompassing pone that is a great across the board fit not just for 2012, but for a few years going forward.
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