Bucks push global cam­paign to make Gian­nis top all-star

Fan videos, retweets help su­per­star to cap­tain spot

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Milwaukee Wisconsin - James B. Nel­son Milwaukee Jour­nal Sen­tinel USA TO­DAY NET­WORK - WIS­CON­SIN

The Milwaukee Bucks are pulling out all the stops and en­cour­ag­ing fans world­wide to cast all-star bal­lots early and of­ten for their su­per­star Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo.

The goal: make An­te­tok­oun­mpo the top vote-get­ter in the fan bal­lot­ing en­sur­ing that he would be the cap­tain of the Eastern Con­fer­ence squad.

“Peo­ple around the world have de­vel­oped an af­fec­tion for him and un­der­stand how good he is,” said Bucks Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent Alex Lasry.

Of course, the Bucks face a for­mi­da­ble ob­sta­cle in their quest: LeBron James, 33, of the Cleve­land Cava­liers, the best player in the NBA, and a 13-time all-star. Right now, with less than a week to go, An­te­tok­oun­mpo is play­ing from be­hind.

At age 23 and bid­ding for his sec­ond all-star ap­pear­ance, An­te­tok­oun­mpo has a much lower pro­file than James. He doesn’t have a ma­jor na­tional TV ad. He has inked a deal with Nike but does not yet have his own sneaker on the mar­ket.

But the team feels it has an op­por­tu­nity be­cause of the in­ter­na­tional ap­peal of An­te­tok­oun­mpo, es­pe­cially in his na­tive Greece.

That, com­bined with a strong lo­cal fol­low­ing, and, of course, a solid sea­son make him an at­trac­tive can­di­date, Lasry said.

An­te­tok­oun­mpo is known for en­gag­ing of­ten with fans at home and on the road. He of­ten makes af­ter-game vis­its with contin­gents from Greek com­mu­ni­ties and stirs at­ten­tion by do­ing things like stick­ing around a gro­cery store au­to­graph sign­ing long af­ter the event was to have ended, Lasry noted.

“He’s not only a great player, he’s lik­able.”

The Bucks en­joyed a surge of op­ti­mism when the first round fan vote to­tals were re­leased Jan. 4 and showed An­te­tok­oun­mpo lead­ing all vote-get­ters with 863,416, and ahead of James by 7,336 votes.

Team James took notice. The Cavs and their fans fired up their so­cial me­dia ma­chine. When the sec­ond round of re­sults was re­leased Thurs­day, James moved into first place with 1,622,838 votes, fol­lowed by An­te­tok­oun­mpo at 1,480,954.

Lasry, who has a back­ground in Demo­cratic pol­i­tics that in­cluded a stint in the Obama White House, said the Bucks are tap­ping so­cial me­dia and us­ing the un­usual vot­ing rules to sup­port their top player.

They’re help­ing fans make their mes­sages more en­ter­tain­ing by tweet­ing small video clips and graph­ics that fans can em­bed in their own tweets.

“We’re work­ing with a va­ri­ety of part­ners from through­out the world” to push votes for An­te­tok­oun­mpo, Lasry said.

One key is to en­sure that fans in other coun­tries use so­cial me­dia in their na­tive lan­guages to whip up home­grown in­ter­est. Hav­ing those folks get into the bal­lot­ing is more ef­fec­tive than mes­sages cooked up by the Bucks team in their Sch­litz Park of­fice cu­bi­cles, the Bucks say.

“It’s not just some­thing that’s come from a Google trans­la­tor,” Lasry said.

“We’re work­ing with a va­ri­ety of part­ners from through­out the world” to push for Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo. Alex Lasry, Bucks se­nior vice pres­i­dent

The Bucks also are us­ing the all-star vot­ing rules that al­low mul­ti­ple ways to cast bal­lots, a sys­tem that’s a far cry from one-man, one-vote. For in­stance, a retweet of a vote counts as a vote.

“If I get 500 retweets, that’s 500 votes,” Lasry said. Fans also can vote (daily if they wish) on Face­book, NBA.com, us­ing the NBA app, Google or through com­mands to Ama­zon Alexa. Those in China can use Sina Weibo and Ten­cent.

“We pro­vided mul­ti­ple re­minders to fans to vote across all chan­nels to en­cour­age vot­ing on all plat­forms,” said Barry Baum, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

“As good as he is, we’re here to sup­port him and pro­vide sup­port so that peo­ple rec­og­nize the great­ness of our player,” Lasry said.

The all-star starters, in­clud­ing the two cap­tains, will be an­nounced Thurs­day. The game will be played Feb. 18 in Los Angeles.

KEVIN SOUSA-USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo’s in­ter­na­tional ap­peal, es­pe­cially in his na­tive Greece, com­bined with a strong lo­cal fol­low­ing and a solid sea­son, make the Milwaukee Bucks for­ward an at­trac­tive can­di­date for top vote-get­ter for the NBA all-star team.

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