Every so often a massive trend pops up that also happens to develop into a massive financial opportunity. Fidget spinners went from a pseudo medical device to a full-blown industry in a blink of an eye. In the case of the fidget spinners however, the creator has received little fame or wealth since she had no ownership of the technology or trend.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals for the past three years and massive controversy constantly surrounding Lebron James, most people love or hate the star, but everyone has an opinion. His fans have brought the phrase “Don’t Hate the King” or DHTK to massive prominence, but what most do not realize is that DHTK is the registered trademark of one entrepreneur.
Elie saw the rise of the DHTK movement beginning to take off years back and jumped on top of the trend by snagging the rights for the acronym. Despite not having official ties to Lebron, he has still been able to develop a brand for the mantra that has earned a following in and of itself. Embodying the lifestyle of athleticism into a streetwear fashion label, Elie launched the DHTK brand a clothing line appealing to those who embody the “Don’t Hate the King” ideal.
Find your individuality
While many will associate DHTK with Lebron, Elie knew in order to not just own this viral trend, but also monetize it properly, he needed to find his individual expression for the phrase. This meant not simply plastering “King James” over shirts and hoodies, but taking the extra step to create interesting styles for self-expression. As he says, “We never explicitly say who ‘The King’ is and honestly, everyone is their own king.”
His powerful lifestyle brand has managed to find the middle ground between Lebron James and Supreme. The style has a uniquely urban vibe similar to the streetwear megalith Supreme, but introduces a unique athletic strength not typically present in street fashion. This individual vibe has allowed for Elie to offer the massive audience of sports and gym fanatics to tap into streetwear and vice versa.
He advises anyone, looking to achieve similar success, to take the extra step to understand what trends are truly about. The Lebron cult is ultimately about success being determined in physical contest and celebrating Lebron for his success. Even more so, these athletic individuals all have a love for sneakers and clothing brands, such as Nike and Adidas. Taking the time to break the trend down to this level allowed for Elie to see athletic streetwear as his opportunity for communicating the DHTK story.
Viral campaigns rarely start themselves and to no surprise, Elie worked diligently to ensure his ownership of DHTK translated into business success as well. Due to this he rolled out a number of street and social media campaigns to boost brand visibility and truly jump start the “Don’t Hate the King” trend. Particularly, during pivotal moments for Lebron’s career in both Cleveland and Miami, the DHTK team hit the city streets with posters, merchandise, and press interviews to get people riled up about King James and DHTK.
These aggressive guerilla campaigns helped add fuel to the fire and ensure people were chanting the right phrase. He noted that one of the best moments was watching the Warriors vs. Cavaliers in the NBA Finals and seeing someone wearing a DHTK shirt right behind the Curry family in the stands. At the end of the day, trends do not start themselves. There needs to be enough social primer to unite people around a message and theme for something to truly catch on.
On social media, besides the typical aggressive growth tactics, he truly tapped into the lifestyle of his consumers to launch the digital side of his brand.
Working with one of the top sneaker customizers online, Daniel Mache, to do a giveaway for Lebron-themed sneakers allowed Elie to offer his demographics tremendous value in exchange for engaging with him online. Furthermore, leveraging the influence of Mache worked to boost his brand awareness and brand legitimacy for a small investment.
It can often be daunting to approach viral trends from a business point of view, but Elie Neufeld spotted and claimed one of the most viral sports trends for himself. With his work to develop a valuable brand and propel the “Don’t Hate the King” mantra to new heights, Elie has helped to unite the worlds of athleticism and streetwear with his fashion label DHTK.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.