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Give Giannis Free Stuff, Dammit

What the hell are we doing here?

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the kind of person businesses pray decades for. Strange, then, that he has arrived and nobody in Milwaukee or Wisconsin seems willing to take a chance to turn the opportunity of a lifetime into something concrete. Enter, Chick-fil-A:

That area Chick-fil-A franchise was handed a godsend. They blew it.

After Giannis Antetokounmpo brought home Milwaukee’s first title in five decades, shrugging off real threats of serious physical injury to make a city’s hopes and dreams reality, scoring 50 points and overcoming his greatest weakness, he had reached a place where everything he touched would inevitably turn to gold. Enter the Instagram Live clip to end all Instagram Live clips: Giannis in his 36th straight hour awake, having his partner Mariah take him around the metro whipping up jubilant crowds everywhere he appeared, and deciding to stop at Chick-fil-A to order 50 nuggets. Not 49, not 51, 50. Better yet, he ordered a customized drink mixing 50% Sprite and 50% lemonade. Delirious with success, Giannis had just uncovered an actual gimmicky goldmine for an enterprising Wisconsin businessperson.

And nobody did anything with it. What the hell?

The reason anyone gets into business is to make money. Corporations, franchises, consortiums — they’re all set up for the express purpose of generating more cash at the end of the pipeline than they started with. We trudge to work, clock in, send emails or hammer some nails for eight or more hours, clock out, and do it again the next day and the day after that; it ain’t much to live for, but it is how many eke out an existence. To help offset the listlessness this system inherently generates, businesses invest in branding to help all of us pretend that making money isn’t the reason these organizations exist. They’re really here to serve the community, to celebrate love, to build connections between people, to salute the troops, or any number of other noble varnishes one could apply to the edifice.

It isn’t as simple as picking phrases out of a hat and putting them on display, though. You need to configure a ton of content and invest a lot of resources into building some credibility into these claims. Advertisements, logos, interior design, uniforms, products, the way leadership presents themselves to the public — all of this has to align with that core message, otherwise the faceless masses have less incentive to choose to buy a burger from you instead of from the competitor across the street. In a world where what someone consumes is thought to say something about them as an individual, you sure as hell better make sure your brand is as well-regarded as you can manage.

One simple trick to build up that brand image has been around for decades (if not centuries now): Getting someone famous and well-liked to endorse what you’re selling. In most cases this is done by handing them Monopoly Man-style sacks of cash so they’ll shill for you. Yet sometimes you don’t even need to open up the Scrooge McDuck vault. You just need to give them 50 burgers.

Giannis is the full package for any business. He is often goofy with punctuations of seriousness, articulating universal philosophies of living to a global audience. He embodies that most American of success stories of the immigrant who struck out on his own, nervous, homesick, excited, and found not only success, but an adopted community he could genuinely call home. He is hardworking, beloved by kids, elite in his work life, a family man, an adored teammate (unless you’re Serge Ibaka or Gary Neal) and, against all the odds, ecstatic to be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

If you’re someone with any level of pull in a Wisconsin business-to-consumer organization, I am begging you to give the man free stuff. Sure, having him appear in an actual ad campaign would probably cost a pretty penny, but merely getting the seal of approval from a beloved one-man institution is something anyone should be striving for. This is not ground-breaking stuff, folks.

The reason why the local car dealership magnates/shadow dictators of medium-sized American metros of yesteryear mastered gimmickry was because the cost of putting on an attention-seeking stunt was negligible to the possible gain. In that tradition, here are suggestions to any entrepreneur reading:

Give Giannis 50 butterburgers, give him a Harley with Greek regalia on it, give him a pack of 1,000 frozen brats to snack on for life, give him a customized 12-pack of Miller with his face on the bottles, give him whatever the hell Fiserv gives to people, give him a pound of custom Colectivo coffee beans called “The Giannis Roast” featuring some of his silliest jokes on the packaging, give him the keys to Oakland Gyros. GIVE HIM ANYTHING. He will almost assuredly enjoy it, publicly mention how much he loved it, and now you’ve got the Giannis Thumbs Up. There is literally no downside to this.

When Giannis ended up at Chick-fil-A 12 hours after he had attained the greatest accomplishment of his professional life, he implicitly indicated that he likes what they were selling. He recorded a video of himself in their lot and shared it with (potentially) hundreds of millions of people. The hard part for the business, getting a foot in the door, was already done. They just needed to follow-through, get in touch with his people, and do what they could to even tangentially benefit from the kind of chaotic opportunity that apparently comes once every 50 years.

For any number of surely logical, but ultimately idiotic and short-sighted, reasons, that chance was wasted. Now, Giannis has publicly taken his business to a Wisconsin-originated competitor. I’ve hopes Mr. The Culver’s will find a way to leverage the opportunity where his rivals failed. God knows his subordinates already instinctively knew what to do while the iron was hot:

Welcome to the Giannis goldmine. Enter if you dare.

UPDATE: Culver’s delivered.