The dog that won a dance contest at the Lakers-Knicks game Monday night in Los Angeles provided more than a surreal moment that went viral.
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It was a branding opportunity.
The Goldendoodle named Brodie sat courtside at Crypto.com Arena in an appearance designed to raise the dog’s profile and the value of the already lucrative pet influencer.
Brodie made about $1.5 million this year from brand partnerships with companies like Celsius and Viacom and social media platform revenue, according to his owner, Cliff Brush Jr., who prefers to be known as Brodie’s dad. That’s more than the NBA minimum salary of $1.1 million for the 2023-24 season, according to Statista.
“Whatever he wants, he gets,’’ Brush said of the 4-year-old service dog.
While Brodie is the breadwinner, Brush plays an vital role: He creates the content, often amusing videos, for the dog’s social media accounts that have attracted about 15 million followers.
The Lakers game was his latest trip to a professional sports event.
Brush and his dog, who live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, have covered the bases, so to speak. At a Florida Marlins game last season, Brush threw out the first pitch and Brodie fetched it. They made their NBA debut at a Miami Heat game last season and are scheduled to make their first NHL appearance at a Florida Panthers game Saturday.
At the Lakers’ game, Brodie sat next to actors and married couple Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgewick. Images of the 80-pound dog sitting on Brush’s lap and under his seat spread across the Internet.
“We did a lot of things that went viral,’’ Brush said of previous appearances, “but this seems to be on that next level.’’
How did Brodie become a celebrity?
Life for Brush, 33, and Brodie came to a crossroads in 2021.
At the time, Brush was working as a budget analyst for the city of Boca Raton. He said his boss noticed he was spending more and more time creating content for Brodie’s social media platforms and less and less time on his full-time job.
“She brought me into her office and asked me if this is what I wanted to do,” Brush said. “Sort of politely gave me an ultimatum. And I was not happy with the 9-for-5 life.’’
So, Brush said, he quit his job, gave up a corporate career that had paid him between $65,000 and $75,00 a year and became a full-time content creator for Brodie.
“It was the best decision of my life,’’ he said.
The number of Brodie’s followers swelled as Brush rolled out video clips, including those showing Brush and Brodie together jet skiing, bicycling, swimming, driving in exotic vehicles, frolicking in the snow, fishing and mingling with sports figures.
“He’s my best friend, no question,” Brush said.
But not everyone is a fan. On Brodie’s Instagram account, ghutybuick wrote, “Dude using his dog to promote himself & make money off him through social media. You need major help little guy.”
No matter. About a year and a half ago, Brush hired Brodie’s manager, AJ Nubla, who helped facilitate Brodie’s appearance at the Lakers game.
How does Brodie make money?
The Lakers game helped demonstrate how the business works for Brodie and Brush.
Bibigo, a South Korean food company that is the Los Angeles Lakers’ jersey patch sponsor, provided the courtside tickets for Brush and Brodie’s manager.
In exchange for the tickets, Bibigo will get a branded post featuring Brodie and the company. The dog has done similar deals with companies such as Subaru.
“We work together with the brand to put together a video that blends what they’re asking for in the content creator’s typical organic content,’’ said Nubla, Brodie’s manager.
The courtside tickets to the Lakers game provided more than an opportunity to watch Lakers superstar LeBron James and the other players. During the game, Brush and Nubla videotaped the dog — including when Brodie won a dance battle against humans. (He danced with Brush’s assistance and stirred the crowd into a frenzy.)
Brush went live on Instagram and later posted video clips on Brodie’s social media accounts, which Brush said generated $400,000 in social media platform revenue last year in addition to about $1.1 million in brand partnerships.
Brodie also appears at charitable events, including a recent one at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Florida.
Why is Brodie a service dog?
In his mid-20s, Brush said, he was diagnosed with lichen planus, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation resulting in a rash that can affect the skin, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Brush said he had a severe version.
“And we kind of narrowed it down to it being stress related,’’ he said.
Later, he said, he bought a Golden Retriever from a champion line, named her Luna and put her in service dog training. But she was not an ideal candidate.
“She’s nothing like Brodie,’’ Brush said. “She’s uncooperative, doesn’t like to film content.”
In 2020, Luna gave birth to a litter that included Brodie.
“I delivered him,’’ Brush said. “So I’ve known him since Day One and I think that’s helped with the special bond we have.’’
Brodie began working as a service animal in 2021. Since them, Brush said, he has experienced no flareups from lichen planus.
Almost always they are together, with the exception of Brush’s trips to the gym and first dates. On Wednesday, they flew from Los Angeles to Toronto for a vacation. They’ll be staying at a Hilton, another one of their brand partners.
“So this is Brodie’s first international stint,’’ Brush said. “I’m curious to know what the love for him is out here.’’