The days of poker companies simply signing the latest poker young gun or big winner are gone. For most operators, the goal is to find a representative that can reach potential new players beyond the traditional poker community.
Those players sought out come with a unique brand or large media presence and following. The World Poker Tour certainly found someone with a large following onThursday in announcing that international DJ superstar Steve Aoki had joined the company as a brand ambassador.
“It’s such an honor to be joining the WPT family,” Aoki said in a news release. “I have watched and admired the WPT for many, many years and to now be part of the WPT family. It feels so surreal and I am incredibly grateful.”
Turntables to poker table
The two-time Grammy-nominated musician and producer is no stranger to poker and has been playing for several years. In announcing the signing, the WPT noted that Aoki would play a “pivotal role in guiding a full revamp of the WPT for what promises to be a historic 20th anniversary season.”
“Having developed several brands of his own, Aoki’s new role will include helping the WPT raise brand awareness,” the company added, “while collaborating with the WPT as they develop a new look and feel. Aoki will also be engaging with poker fans at a number of WPT Tour special events throughout 2022.”
Plans so far call for Aoki and the WPT to host an invitation-only charity tournament in Las Vegas to benefit the Aoki Foundation in mid-2022. The foundation supports organizations working in brain science and research with a specific focus on regenerative medicine and brain preservation.
“The passion and energy in which Steve Aoki approaches every aspect of his life is both inspiring and very much in line with the new vision of the WPT,” WPT CEO Adam Pliska said.
“Steve’s love of poker and his dedication to inspiring others to live life to the fullest makes him the ideal WPT brand ambassador. We are honored to have him play an active role in our transformation and in the celebration of the World Poker Tour’s 20th anniversary.”
Growing the WPT brand
Aoki first made a name for himself in the world of electronic music. Since then, he’s also become a fashion designer, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and NFT futurist.
The signing comes after the WPT announced additional US-based stops on the Main Tour this week. The company also announced three WPTDeepStacks events including two outside the US. Season XX kicks off this month with the Seminole Hard Rock Lucky Hearts Poker Open in Hollywood, Florida.
Pliska has promised some new surprises and events for the tour’s 20th anniversary season. Adding Aoki seems to be the first of those efforts.
The musician seems like a nice fit for the tour. He is based in Las Vegas and has a long history with the game of poker. He counts several big-name players among his friends and also recently played in the WPT’s online Heads-Up Poker Championship.
— Foxwoods Resort Casino (@FoxwoodsCT) January 12, 2022
Beyond his poker credentials, Aoki attracts plenty of eyeballs. That includes 8.2 million Twitter followers and 9.4 million on Instagram. In total, his social media accounts reach more than 35.2 million users.
The WPT notes that “Aoki has a devoted fan base with wide-ranging interests.”
The signing offers a chance for the WPT to bring some of those into the game. As part of the 20th anniversary year, it’s easy to see Aoki playing tournaments and participating in special events promoting the WPT.
A growing trend
Adding players outside the traditional world of poker has grown over the last few years. Operators seek players with an established platform that reaches a wide range of people.
That can range from Twitch to sports to the arts. Online poker operators have led these efforts. In August, PokerStars added Argentina’s popular rap freestyler and poker player Papo MC (aka Alejandro Andres Lococo).
That signing brought some extra headlines for Stars in November when Lococo made the final table in the World Series of Poker Main Event. He ultimately finished seventh for $1.2 million.
Brazilian soccer sensation Neymar Jr. also returned for his second ambassadorship with Stars beginning in December 2020.
Partypoker has its own share of representatives outside the poker world. That includes popular comedian and actor Kevin Hart and British four-time super-middleweight world champion boxer Carl Froch. Both have large social media presences.
GGPoker has signed some of the biggest names in poker to promote its brand, including Daniel Negreanu, Fedor Holz, and Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier. However, the site also made some news in December 2020 with the signing of “King of Instagram” Dan Bilzerian.
Aoki becomes the latest brand rep in a growing and eclectic group of ambassadors from outside poker. How much impact do they have on these companies?
That remains to be seen but the WPT has generally seen growing fields as live poker makes its return. With the 20th season getting underway, tour officials are hoping for even more growth.
* Lead image courtesy WPT