In 1999, the Raptors’ previous owner/general manager Isiah Thomas brought Nav Bhatia to the centre of the basketball court and designated him the Raptors’ Superfan. Since then, Nav has become a sensation amongst not just Raptors fans, but NBA fans worldwide. He has used social media to not only brand himself, but the Raptors, Toronto and the spirit of giving back. We spoke to him to learn more about how he developed the Superfan brand.
What has changed since being dubbed the Raptors’ Superfan?
The concept of taking the Superfan global and creating a social media identity was the thought process of my brand management company, Fictionstreetmedia, and brand manager, Rinku Ghei. Three years ago, Rinku asked me what I wanted from the Superfan brand. I told him: to bring as many people together through the game of basketball. So we set out a plan to build basketball courts and camps for kids.
Shortly after, an article in the New York Times was published and there was a media swarm at my business. Our plan was moved up and the next evolution of the Superfan was to begin immediately!
I look back at the last three years and can’t believe all of the opportunity that has arisen from this newfound fame and celebrity, which helps me reach out to more people.
What’s the best thing that’s come out of being a Superfan?
The best thing to come out of being the Superfan has been to be able to reach out to people that never really knew who I was. It’s been an incredible opportunity to inspire and motivate others as they understand and can relate to some of the issues I had to deal with as I started my life in Canada.
What’s the worst thing that’s come out of being a Superfan?
I don’t think there is anything bad about being the Superfan. I love meeting people and I’ve had the opportunity to meet hundreds of people every city I travel to. The Superfan has somehow become a sensation in many other NBA cities and it’s great! People of all backgrounds, colours, ages coming together through basketball.
How do you think you’ll evolve with the Superfan brand?
I’m starting the Superfan Nav Bhatia Foundation with the goal to bring people together through basketball. I’m building basketball courts and basketball programs for kids in low-income areas across Canada and the USA. I want to give these kids something positive to do other than hang around and maybe get into gangs or some other type of trouble.
What are you tips for others who want to become a known Superfan like you?
It’s about passion. It doesn’t matter if your team is winning or losing – it’s about wearing your team logo like the flag of your country. Stay proud.