Australian NBA superstar Matthew Dellavedova turned to 99designs a year ago for a one-of-a-kind custom logo—the first step in launching his own personal brand. He’s been making big plays ever since.
In June, he won an NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then, it was off to Rio where he competed at the 2016 Summer Olympics representing Australia right before signing a new four-year contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. Oh, and somewhere in the middle, he debuted the Delly 1, the first edition of his signature basketball shoe.
During a quick time-out between balancing basketball and business, Delly sat down with our CEO Patrick Llewellyn to chat about how his personal brand came together and what it takes to bring a flagship product to mass market.
Pat: You’ve been in the NBA for 4 years now, and last year you decided to start actively cultivating your personal brand. Why?
Delly: Great question. The reason is really simple, and it’s just that opportunities starting to come my way. In my first couple of years in the NBA, I was just trying to cement my position on the team. I didn’t come through the draft. I had to make it through Summer League and training camp. That was a lot of hard work
I realized that opportunities were starting to come my way after the playoff run my second year in Cleveland. Lebron obviously brings a lot more attention to the team and everyone on it as well. I was approached by a local coffee company that wanted to do a ‘Delly’ blend of coffee and an insurance company. I have my US agent, BDA Sports, and an Australian agent, Bruce Kaidar of One Management Group & Consulting. Bruce and his team started bringing me opportunities in the Australian market. That was when I realized this might not be a one-off thing. This was something that we could build and grow if we made the most of the opportunities.
You used 99designs to design the logo for the Delly brand. Why did you choose to be so hands-on?
I have help from One Management and BDA Sports but I like to be hands on in everything I do. I’m pretty detailed in most things. In the end, everything that you do reflects on you so you want to make sure you do it right.
Pat, I’ve known you for quite a long time so, of course, I was aware of 99designs. So, when it came to developing my own brand, I didn’t really think of other options. I also figured it was my responsibility to get it done and get it done the way that I wanted. At first, I really didn’t think I was very particular about my brand or image, but as more opportunities come my way I realize that I actually do have a pretty strong opinion. So, it’s really good for me to be involved and engaged in the each step of the process.
Would you say that describes your style as a player?
Yeah! I think so. I have always tried to do the little things on and off the court to continue to get better. I’ve always tried to work hard and improve my game.
I grew up in a small country town called Maryborough, in Victoria, Australia and spent three years at the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) with Marty Clarke. I left home at 16 and moved to Canberra so that I could focus on chasing my dream as a basketballer. That’s where I learned a lot about myself and what it would take to get to the next level. I carried that into College and learned a lot from Coach Bennett and the St. Mary’s program. And that’s transferred to my life in the NBA.
Would you say that describes your personal brand?
Yeah, I think so. I try to stay true to myself and focus on the little things because I know they matter. I love representing my country, and I love my hometown! I still have a basketball clinic there, and I go home and visit Mum and Dad and catch up with friends. When I think about my own personal brand, I think about how I can capture my history and what made me who I am just as much as where I’m going. I want to make sure I have alignment between who I am and what I am representing.
I’d love to go back and talk about what you had in mind when we started the process of getting your logo created. What was your inspiration as you created your brief? How did you find the design experience, and ultimately how did you choose the Delly logo?
I started out with pretty open mind. I knew that I wanted something relatively simple. I wanted something that expressed who I was, but I wasn’t super clear on what that would look like.
We talked about some sort of stamp or map, and I looked a lot of different players’ logos to get a sense of the style that I liked. I even collected some stuff from Pinterest and put all of that into the brief. From there, I really relied on the 99designs community to see what they would come up with.
This was my first experience doing anything design related, so I really took advantage of the polling feature. I got feedback from you, my management team, my best mate Mitch, Mom & Dad, my wife Anna, Anna’s family—my whole inner circle. I was really keen on trying to capture their feedback, particularly because I was on the road, and it wasn’t super easy for me to chat with everyone about what was coming in. That was a great way for me to collect feedback from people that I really care about and who know me and what my brand should mean.
We all gravitated pretty quickly to the design from Steve Hai. He was really responsive and a great designer. I really liked ::scott::’s design as well, and I know that was one of your favorites, Pat. In the end, I think we had two really great options, but ultimately it came down to the design that clearly represented Australia. I was even able to put a little ode to my hometown of Maryborough (the ball on the map is actually positioned on the map to represent Maryborough). I think it all worked out really well.
Let me just say I think you were right, Matt! Now that I reflect on the choice you made, I think you picked exactly the right logo for you.
You’ve also partnered with PEAK to release a line of shoes with this logo. Talk me through the product development and design process.
When this opportunity with PEAK came up, I knew there was potential for a Delly signature shoe, which I found really exciting. The shoe really solidified the need for my own personal brand and certainly was a driver for getting this logo done when I did. I even had a prototype and a shoe in mind when I had my logo created. We actually provided mockups of the shoe to the designer so they could show us what their design would look like on apparel and on the shoe.
That was March of last year when I started that process. The reality is: getting a shoe created is a lot harder than I thought! And a lot has transpired in that time. I was playing for Cleveland at the time. We made it to the NBA finals and won and then I was straight off to begin preparations for the Olympics and I also had restricted free agency and new deal with Milwaukee to work through. It was a super busy time. I think back in March we thought we could pull this shoe together really quickly and then, come the Rio Olympics, they would be ready. The reality is that I’m a lot more particular about the shoes that I wear than I originally thought, and we’re all a little optimistic about timelines.
When you think about it, there’s only one piece of equipment that really matters to basketball players, and it’s their shoe. We don’t have bats, and we don’t have pads. The one thing we have is our shoes, and our feet are one of the major things that we need to protect. So, it took quite a few iterations to get to a shoe that I loved.
PEAK was amazing, and they put up with my particular wants and needs. Going in, I had a pretty clear idea of what I thought I wanted—having worn a certain style for a long time—and I felt really comfortable in that shoe. In the end, I think we went through four or five different versions, but this final version I’m really really happy with. PEAK were very patient and receptive to my feedback. We managed to get it done just in time for the start of the NBA season, and my time here with Milwaukee. Needless to say, I’m super excited it’s been released it to the public!
Any surprises along the way, or advice to someone looking to launch their own product?
Be patient, and stay true to who you are. There were certainly ups and downs in this process. I had a clear vision: I knew what I wanted from a shoe, and I knew how I wanted it to feel on the court. I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than that and PEAK wanted the exact same thing. Now, I’m really proud of the result, and I know PEAK are really happy with it too. We’ve got a shoe that we all think is great, and we’re already starting to think of what the next shoe looks like.
I’m learning that product development is iterative, and it’s something that you continue to work out. I’ve learned that persistence pays off and being true your vision is an important aspect of that. Have some patience, and work hard at it!
What does the next year have installed for you, and what’s next for the Delly brand?
This year off season is going to be a little quieter for me. Last year was crazy! The championship with Cleveland was amazing, and before I knew it I was on a plane heading to Olympic training camp for Australia. In that time, I signed a new contract with Milwaukee, so I moved cities and moved my family.
The biggest milestone was getting married! Being an international couple means there was plenty of extended celebrating. I’ve got lots of family in Australia, and Anna’s got lots of family in California, and we made sure we looked after everyone. It was an incredible few days.
From my brand perspective, we’ve started working together with PEAK on Delly 2s (the next iteration of the shoe) and I’m continuing to do my work with Sanitarium and Spalding. In Australia, I’m working with Up and Go which is pretty cool. I’m continuing to evolve my coffee blend, so you’ll see the Delly logo on more coffee in the future. Another new startup venture that I’m working with is a production company called Working Man Media Group and I’m excited to give that some more time as well.
On the NBA side, we finished in the playoffs. This will just provide this young talented group more motivation for next year to take the next step. I’m looking forward to some rest and recovery before jumping into offseason training and really working on my body and game to prepare for next season.
Well, we wish you the best of luck from all of us here at 99designs. We’ll be rooting for you!
What’s your next play?
Delly is the quintessential team player. And the 99designs global design team knows the perfect ways to bring brands to life. And that’s what awesome teamwork looks like.