US – Global messaging giant WhatsApp is releasing its first short film later this month. Featuring NBA All-Star athlete Giannis Antetokounmpo, the film may mark a departure from the social media platform’s unusual product offering into entertainment, although it is essentially a branded content exercise.
The film, entitled Naija Odyssey, is a light homage to the classic Greek poem The Odyssey and Giannis’s Greek and Nigerian heritage. The 12-minute film ‘tells his origin story of many origins as he reconciles his roots, birthplace and sense of belonging between cross-cultural worlds’. Directed by Nono Ayuso and Rodrigo Inada and edited by Oscar-winner Mikkel EG Nielsen, the film will be streamed on YouTube and Prime Video .
By casting Giannis Antetokounmpo, who announced an endorsement partnership with the brand earlier this year, WhatsApp is using the NBA athlete’s status as a Reliable Idol to draw attention to the platform’s positioning as a tool ‘connecting you to those who matter most’ just as its parent company Meta faces an anti-trust lawsuit in the US and criticism for spreading disinformation.
Next-level partnerships between talent and brands must appear seamless and symbiotic, offer relatability – and encourage self-discovery in consumers.