BLOG | by Victor Gras

The media is obsessed with Zion Williamson. But wait until you see how excited fans are getting.

The NBA’s most exciting rookie finally hit the courts in January and, since then, Zion Williamson hasn’t looked back.

The Williamson brand today feels like one that is seeping beyond the realms of basketball. Perhaps it’s already becoming a name – like Ronaldo or Biles – that people around the world will become familiar with, without necessarily following the sport in which the athlete excels.

And while Williamson is unquestionably enjoying an impact on the court – he is averaging more than 20 points a game for the Pelicans – can we yet quantify his contribution to audience engagement? Let’s see.

The chart above shows three of the 16 metrics we track daily for the New Orleans Pelicans among the US public. We include Buzz (heard positive chatter about the team?), Word of Mouth (spoken about the team to friends and family in the past two weeks?) and Current Customer (do you support or follow the team?).

The data suggests that the Pelicans are really seeing a Zion effect in their brand profile. Buzz and Word of Mouth have both more than doubled since the start of the year and continue to climb. A word of caution though. The data suggests that these increases have yet to translate into significant increases in the Pelicans’ fanbase, which has remained fairly steady.

Let’s put some of those scores into some context.

At the time of writing only the Lakers, Celtics and the Heat are creating more Buzz among NBA fans. And only five teams are generating more conversation, as per our Word of Mouth metric (see below) among this same group.

In fact, since Williamson pulled on a uniform for his first match, all but one of the 16 metrics we track for the Pelicans have seen an appreciation in score among fans of the league.

Finally, what evidence do we have to stand up our intro here – that Williamson is making an impact outside of the NBA? Well, check out our final chart.

This time a single metric – Attention (have you heard anything – positive or negative – about the Pelicans?). But here filtered for fans of other major league sports. The Pelicans’ score has more than doubled since Williamson laced up his shoes for the team for the first time.

Of course, there will always be overlap between these fan groups but this is surest sign yet that Williamson is beginning to earn the crossover appeal that happens to athletes perhaps once in a generation. We can’t wait to see what’s to come for the NBA’s newest superstar.

PHOTO | New Orleans Pelicans v Chicago Bulls
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – FEBRUARY 06: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans waits to rebound between Thaddeus Young #21 and Luke Kornet #2 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

BLOG | by Victor Gras

Head of Client Services

Joining YouGov Sport in March 2018, Victor brings seven years of global sports sponsorship expertise. In his last role, he led Nielsen’s Market Intelligence activity across all US verticals, working with brands, rights holders and agency clients. He also worked previously with the New York Road Runners, where he helped TCS launch the title partnership of the NYC Marathon, as well as with the ASO, optimizing sponsorship strategies for the Tour de France and the Paris Marathon.