Social media star Lil’ Kev, a laminated Tommy Bahama advertisement that bore a striking resemblance to Cleveland Cavaliers player Kevin Love, became the unofficial mascot for the Cavaliers as they played their way to a NBA Championship this season. Brought to prominence and made famous by Cavalier Richard Jefferson, Lil’ Kev took Jefferson’s snapchat by storm throughout the season, sitting shotgun in the car and relaxing with the team – he even has an official Instagram account (@officiallilkev) with 44.1k followers.
All of this made for some major, and unexpected, coverage for Tommy Bahama. Accompanying the Cleveland Cavaliers from the playoffs to the championship title, Lil’ Kev was nothing short of an A-List celebrity – featured nationally online on GQ, ESPN, Time, Sports Illustrated, Fox8, Bleacher Report, the official Instagram of the NBA, USAToday, The Huffington Post, Yahoo, AOL, MSN and much more. Locally, Lil’ Kev was a hero in “The Land,” receiving major local coverage on Clevescene.com, Cleveland Mag and Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer.
The Tommy Bahama store at Beachwood Place played host to an exciting surprise giveaway in May when the Cavaliers passed out signature Lil’ Kev shirts before the playoffs. 500 shirts were given away to fans in less than 20 minutes, and Orsi gifted #LilKev shirts to 50+ key national and local media that had covered Lil’ Kev.
Lil’ Kev even reached music celebrity status when famous Cleveland supporter Lil Wayne released a tribute song for the team called “Off Off Off.” The song calls out nearly all of the Cavaliers, including Lil’ Kev, and has over 2.5 million views on YouTube!
Lil’ Kev was much more than a pop icon, however. In his emotional “Who We Are” letter to the fans published on ThePlayersTribune.com, Jefferson credits Lil’ Kev for the team’s unity. Jefferson notes in the letter, “People were sending me pictures of customized Lil’ Kev T-shirts that they’d made… It was a surprise at first, but then it made complete sense: Cavs fans wanted to see us as we really are.”
That’s when I realized that the Lil’ Kev story may have started as a joke, but it had grown into something more than just some fun thing that I was doing on an app during my down time. It showed us being ourselves but more importantly, it reflected what was true about our team.
After the Cavalier’s thrilling victory in game 7, Tommy Bahama even published a full page ad in The Cleveland Plain Dealer congratulating the team on an exciting victory! The ad reads, “Congratulations, Cleveland! We believe. #LilKev.”
Jefferson returned to the Tommy Bahama Beachwood Place retail store the day after Cleveland’s victory parade to sign autographs for fans of the team and Lil’ Kev, announcing the appearance to fans in both his Snapchat and Lil’ Kev’s Instagram. Orsi alerted local media – including Fox, ABC and NBC – to appear for interviews with Jefferson and Lil’ Kev before their Summer vacations. Sitting in front of a massive photo of Lil’ Kev, Jefferson signed autographs at the front of the store, and took photos with over 350 fans. At the end, Jefferson stepped out into the crowd to snapchat and wave to the 500+ fans that showed up to see him and Lil’ Kev.