Today WhatsApp announces a new partnership with basketball prodigy Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks forward and 2021 NBA All-Star MVP. Antetokounmpo is WhatsApp’s first ever global partner, and this NBA All-Star Weekend in Cleveland — the site of Antetokounmpo’s sixth career All-Star Game, no less — is just the start for this partnership that will reveal itself over time.
His is a story that exemplifies the ethos of global connection and community: born to Nigerian parents in Athens, Greece, Antetokuonmpo has gone on to dominate the American sport and become a symbol of hope and positivity for fans around the world.
A man of many countries who takes pride in place and identity, Antetokounmpo harnesses the incredible power of WhatsApp to stay close to his roots and keep the love of his family in his heart, a universal experience shared by the app’s more than 2 billion users in over 180 countries.
Antetokuonmpo said: “Throughout my life, WhatsApp has kept me connected to my loved ones, my friends, my communities and everyone important to me. It’s a link to home in Greece, and a link to my family roots in Nigeria. Having easy access to my communities has helped build me into the person and athlete I am today, and working with WhatsApp – a messaging service that I use every day to stay connected with family is important to me. I look forward to building on this partnership together.”
To announce the partnership, Giannis took to his All-Star Game tunnel walk wearing a custom hoodie designed by Post Imperial, the fashion brand founded by Nigerian-American designer Niyi Okuboyejo.
The corduroy chenille hoodie bears Giannis’ jersey number, 34, “hacked” to become +234, the international calling code for Nigeria, exemplifying the proximity of minutiae that piece together our identities. The back is emblazoned with Giannis’ family name, “Adetokunbo,” a symbolic nod to the deep inner connections that WhatsApp cultivates.
Antetokuonmpo said: “When I think about Nigeria, I think about where my mom and dad came from, but also the youth, the artists, the talent who work tirelessly on their craft. It’s been incredible to collaborate with Niyi of Post imperial, an incredible entrepreneur who exemplifies the enduring spirit of Nigerian culture, on this WhatsApp project.”
Niyi Okuboyejo of Post Imperial said: “If you have ever been to Nigeria, you understand that we move and communicate via WhatsApp. As a Nigerian-American designer, it was an incredible honor to collaborate with Giannis and WhatsApp. Giannis represents a pinnacle of excellence in our community and our commitment to thrive. The hoodie is an ode to our Nigerian roots, inspired by the Nigerian flag. This was a collaboration between myself, Giannis, local Nigerian dye artisans and Nigerian tailors, all connected through WhatsApp.”
Vivian Odior, head of global brand and integrated Marketing at WhatsApp said: “Giannis’ success is fueled by the deep relationships he has in his life and it’s been an honor to hear that WhatsApp has helped keep those relationships strong throughout the years. We’re excited for Giannis to be WhatsApp’s first global brand partner.” “Giannis is one of the billions of people who use WhatsApp every day to stay connected with friends and family, and his story is a perfect example of why we do what we do everyday.”
There is no better personification of the WhatsApp spirit — the unparalleled power to break down barriers and connect people from every walk of life — than Antetokounmpo, who has used WhatsApp to become the global citizen he is today. “Those who know my story know that I’m Greek and Nigerian: I was raised in Greece, but I am 99.9% Nigerian. The only way I could connect to my family in Nigeria while growing up was through WhatsApp. As humans we’re a collection of experiences, and learning about where I came from has kept me close to my identity as I continue to evolve as an athlete and person.”