Dirk Nowitzki has become a legend by leading the Dallas to the NBA title. Now the Mavericks superstar has become Legendary thanks to a pair of Mavericks fans who came up with a new line of t-shirts featuring an Icon the German Wunderkind – with more projects incorporating Nowitzki on the way.
The Dirk Swish apparel – men’s and women’s t-shirts and baseball caps – features a white silhouette icon of Nowitzki’s unique shooting technique that reminds many sports fans of the “Jumpman” logo from Michael Jordan and Nike.
Dirk Swish bosses Ryan Mendez and Mark Fenn caught Nike marketers napping and came up with an impressive product that has already gained a massive following in the Dallas area. The group is now looking to expand beyond the Texas metropolis. Legendary even have more in mind as spin-offs of this campaign – among them “how to Dirk”, which just from the sound of it conjures up images of “Be like Mike”.
heinnews’s David Hein talked to Mendez – coincidentally, a former teammate of Brose Baskets Bamberg captain Casey Jacobsen at Stanford University – about how the idea for the Legendary brand evolved. Mendez also offered insight into Nowitzki visiting Stanford before announcing he would enter the NBA Draft; about Fenn sitting behind Mavericks owner Mark Cuban at Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Miami; wanting to present a Brand Legendary strategy to Nowitzki; plans for another campaign to showcase people’s love for Dirk; and giving 5 percent of the profits to the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation.
heinnews: How did the idea come about? And when? Who designed the logo?
Mendez: The idea for the Legendary Icon came about in May of 2011 as part of our brand strategy to relaunch Streetball.com – a company I founded over four years ago. I recently moved back to Dallas and had the pleasure of attending many of the Dallas Mavericks games with my business partner and friend, Mark Fenn, a hardcore basketball junkie and Mavs season ticket holder since 1998-99. I told Mark a while back that Dirk and (Nowitzki mentor) Holger (Geschwindner) actually took an unofficial visit to Stanford prior to Dirk’s announcement to enter the NBA Draft. I’ve always been a fan of Dirk’s game from afar, but never had the opportunity to see him live. The first time I saw Dirk play live, Mark and I were sitting in the first row behind the Mavs bench when they played the Chicago Bulls.
After watching Dirk live, I can’t really put into words what I saw. All I can say now is, LEGENDARY. He plays with so much poise and control and he’s always on balance when he releases his shot. Many people who don’t know basketball assume that he takes off balanced shots, but that’s not the case.
heinnews: So back to the question. How did the idea come about?
Mendez: I pride myself in being able to find anything I want via search. I was amazed that there was not a single picture on the Internet that captured the essence of Dirk’s Legendary move. Think about how many photographers had the chance to capture the move, but somehow missed it. I found a few examples of his patented high release but often times his legs were together.
I kept searching and searching and kept coming up empty – that’s when it really hit me. How can this happen to a guy with one of the best moves in the history of basketball?
I immediately talked to Mark about it and he had one of his friends, David Powell, help refine and tweak the poor man’s logo I made. I’m not the greatest at photoshop and needed some help. I don’t care how talented you are at graphic design, it was extremely difficult to nail down exactly what I wanted. You have to understand player mechanics and how they relate to design. Nonetheless, David and I went through iteration after iteration until we nailed it. The result is the Legendary Icon.
heinnews: How did you think of the name?
Mendez: The name of the Icon came about after the initial results were in. As soon as the Icon was finalized we downloaded an image of a royal blue t-shirt and put the Icon on the front. I sent the concept to Mark, who was actually attending the Byron Nelson Golf Tournament.
Mark showed it to a few people and everyone loved it. The response was Legendary, just like Dirk’s game – so we naturally called it the Legendary Icon. We put up a fan site with ecommerce functionality in less than a day at www.DirkSwish.com right before the start of game 1 in Miami. One of Fenn’s friends, Corby Davidson from The Hardline – The Ticket 1310am briefly mentioned the Legendary Icon shirts on the radio prior to Game 1. In less than 30 minutes, we had 130 orders.
heinnews: How did you gain such a loyal following in such a short amount of time?
Mendez: I’ll be brief with this. First off, the hardcore fans of Dirk Nowitzki made all this possible. Fenn had been planning to attend Games 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals in Miami – think hardcore Mavs fan and multiply by 41. Memorial Day weekend was upon us and we scrambled to get a few printed Legendary Icon shirts for Fenn to wear at the games. So, Fenn was off to Miami but still needed to buy his ticket for the game.
He had been tracking ticket prices on Stub Hub and found a great deal on tickets right behind the Mavs bench. That right there tells you about Miami fans vs. Mavs fans. Fenn’s philosophy is this, if you’re going to do something, might as well do it right. It just so happened that Fenn was sitting right behind Cuban during Game 2 when we debuted my favorite style of the Legendary Icon in Black and White. Game 2 was Legendary. Dirk and the Mavs came back to win in Miami – it was the largest comeback in NBA Finals history. Legendary.
While Fenn was sitting courtside doing his thing, I was at command central taking screenshots of the TV and uploading photos, making videos, reviewing the analytics and writing blog posts all around the web to spread the word. The rest is history. The stars aligned and the result was the birth of Brand Legendary. I told our team from Day 1 that I’m not in the t-shirt business. I would like to thank Mark Fenn, Mike Csanad, Mia Lane, Nosarere Iduwe, David Powell, Shawn Norman, Corby Davidson, Mike Rhyner, Jen Brown, Kate Brightwell, Elizabeth Horany, Ronnie Cruz and the Dirk Swish Fam around the world.
heinnews: Does the Icon have anything to do with Nike? Or is it more Dirk’s wish?
Mendez: Darren Rovell – the Emmy Award winning CNBC Sports Business Journalist summed it up in 144 characters or less. Rovell said, “While Nike was asleep, the DirkSwish guys dreamed up a great new logo.” I use the word Icon. Logos are found everywhere, but Icons are well, Legendary. That’s all I have to say about that for now.
You can search for my blog posts that discuss my thoughts on Nike and their Epic Failure Marketing campaign. Darren Rovell also followed up the tweet with an article on CNBC titled, “Dirk Nowitzki: Marketable to Right Company with Right Creative.” It’s worth a read. After I read the article, I tweeted him from one of my twitter accounts shortly after the release of the article and simply said, “We Got Creative by the Pound.”
heinnews: Regarding Dirk’s Wish?
Mendez: It’s funny you should ask that. I can’t tell you how many times people ask, is it Dirk Swish or Dirk’s Wish? We all know what happens when he releases the ball, but only Dirk can answer the second part.
My wish is just to get the opportunity to formally present a Brand Legendary marketing strategy to Dirk – authentic, relevant creative campaigns that embody his true essence without exploitation.
Be on the lookout for another side project I’m working on. We’re about to teach people how to Dirk. “Teach me how to Dirk, Teach me how to Dirk.” You get the idea. It’s just one of many.
The viral campaign is going to showcase the love people have for Dirk. Dirk Nowitzki fans have been patiently waiting for years for companies like Nike to step up, but they never did. Since we are the customer and respond to our own on a one-to-one basis, we’re able to react dynamically to satisfy their needs, which in turn, are our needs. So far, the results have been up and to the right.
heinnews: Has Dirk seen the Legendary Icon? His Thoughts?
Mendez: Our marketing strategy includes all the touch points of not only our customer but the man himself – one of Top 15 players in NBA history. Here’s a pic from Game 4 of the NBA Finals on ABC. Despite a rough first three quarters and a 101 fever I tweeted during the 3rd quarter that Dirk would come through in the clutch. I obviously can’t take credit for his Legendary performance in the 4th, I just wanted to let people know that we have Dirk’s back. Always.
In the first batch of shirts we produced, we made four 4XLT Legendary Icon shirts specifically for Dirk. A friend of Fenn’s gave our gift to Dirk. In addition, Dirk was nice enough to autograph a Legendary Icon T for Fenn. Thank you Dirk. It will soon be hanging in our office.
heinnews: What do you do when you’re not selling t-shirts?
Mendez: I told our team from day one that I’m not in the t-shirt, website, social media, TV, music or event planning industries to name a few. I build brands. Many brands fail to live up to my expectations and I know it’s the same for many people reading this. My passion is basketball and technology. I was born and raised in Texas and was fortunate enough to play and study at Stanford.
Fenn is a partner at a local interactive agency in Fort Worth called Algorhythm. He’s an avid sports enthusiast and writes for Streetball, ScoreboardDaily.com and a few other sites. He’d like to see Steve Nash back in a Mavs uniform in the next year. His goal is to be the GM of the Mavs.
My goal is simple – to create, design, produce and market legendary products by utilizing technology and resources available to everyone. Many people are hesitant to give away their ideas and thoughts on what they plan to do with their business. I’m the opposite. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do and I’m happy to teach you along the way. I really miss the tech environment of Silicon Valley where I worked for a number of years after playing professionally in Australia and in Spain.
My hope is to build that environment in Dallas, one unique at a time. I would like to thank all the die hard members of the Dirk Swish Family. In the words of Mark Cuban, “We Ain’t Done Yet.” In fact we’re just getting started. We announced on our Dirk Swish Facebook site that we are donating at least 5% of profits to the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation. In addition, I told his foundation that we’d redesign and launch a new site for the foundation free of charge.
Lastly, I would like to congratulate my friend and teammate from Stanford, Casey Jacobsen, on winning back-to-back German titles with Brose Baskets Bamber. Casey is a true professional. Congrats Jake.