When Kevin Durant made his emotional acceptance speech earlier this year for the National Basketball Association's MVP award, Sonic Drive-In CMO Todd Smith's ears perked up. The national attention coupled with Durant's ties to Sonic's Oklahoma City headquarters led to the chain's first sports endorsement deal, which will be announced today.
"What really happened was the MVP speech that he made last year really pushed him into a national presence more, but also, his likability is off the charts," Smith said. "For us, we wanted someone who has a hometown feel with a national presence because that's the type of brand we are."
As part of the multiyear agreement, the Oklahoma City Thunder forward will star in national television ads with Sonic's famous "Two Guys" campaign, rolling out this summer. It's the first time a celebrity has starred in a commercial with Sonic's funny duo, played by actors T. J. Jagodowski and Peter Grosz.
"[During] the first meeting that I had with Kevin, his first question was, 'Am I going to meet the two guys?' You'll see Kevin in a very relaxed way using a lot of that Sonic humor," Smith said. The athlete will also be included in digital, merchandising, packaging and social media.
In addition to promotions, Durant will also be involved with Limeades for Learning, Sonic's foundation that gives back to the education industry. The program funds items that teachers need in local cities.
The NBA star will also be used to help the brand brainstorm new menu items, which shouldn't be a problem since Durant is apparently already a fan of Sonic's food. Per Smith, he's a regular at a restaurant near the Chesapeake Energy Arena, where the Thunder play.
"It felt less like we were going out to just find someone to endorse the brand and more like we were inviting Kevin—who is a big Sonic fan—to come endorse the brand with us," Smith said.