Style tie-ins and potential as a global brand ambassador were the two dominant themes that emerged from the NBA Draft last week. First selection Zion Williamson, the Duke freshman who suffered a shoe breakdown during a college game last season, went to the New Orleans Pelicans as expected, but to date he has not yet signed an athletic shoe endorsement deal. With legendary sneaker dealmaker Sonny Vacarro forecasting a $100 million payday for Williamson, which would surpass LeBron James’ $87 million rookie deal with Nike, others predicted he might eventually take a lucrative deal from a Chinese brand—such as Peak, Li-Ning or Anta—looking to gain additional category market share as the game’s appeal continues to broaden worldwide.
To that end, two of Adidas’ three first round signees already have notable recognition on court outside North America—Goga Bitadze, the 18th pick by Indiana who is a 2019 rising star in the EuroLeague, and Sekou Doumbouya, a Guinean-born French professional basketball player who was selected 15th overall by Detroit. The Three Stripes-brand also signed the draft’s sixth selection overall, Jarrett Culver, a Texas Tech shooting guard to a partnership deal. He was drafted by Minnesota.
Like Adidas, Nike apparently considered international market potential when it signed Japanese National Team player Rui Hachimura (9th selection by Washington) to its Brand Jordan roster of more than 50 professional players across sports. Brand Jordan is also adding the 2017 NBA Draft’s third overall selection, Boston’s small forward Jayson Tatum, to its endorser team.
Notably absent so far from a brand perspective in signing NBA Draft selections this year was Puma, which secured four 2018 NBA Draft picks, including Sacramento’s Marvin Bagley Jr. and Phoenix’s Bahamian center DeAndre Ayton, last June. The Cat did introduce its new City Pack Clyde Collection in five colorways ($120 MSRP) before the draft. Meanwhile, New Balance, which signed NBA Finals’ MVP Kahwi Leonard as an endorser earlier this year, introduced its 997 Raptors Championship Pack ($200 MSRP) last week.
• Custom suit maker INDOCHINO signed Canadian baller and first-round pick, RJ Barrett, as its first signature NBA athlete. Barrett donned a pink suit for his appearance on stage as the third pick in the draft by the New York Knicks.
• Hanesbrands-owned Champion Athleticwear has signed on as the official sport style partner of The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and THINK450. Earlier this year, the brand became the official outfitter of NBA 2K. Under the new multi-year partnership, Champion will develop, manufacture and provide apparel for NBPA camps and clinic and sell NBPA-marked shirts, hoodies, pants and other merchandise at select retailers.