How the NBA’s Wild Free Agency Will Affect Major Brands

In one of the craziest NBA free agencies in league history, countless big time all-stars have switched teams. This enormous relocation of talent around the league has lead to a completely reshaped competitive landscape in the NBA. It is definitely going to be an entertaining 2019-20 NBA season on the court but there has also been a huge shift off the court as well. With so many superstars now in new locations, brands that partner with players will be drastically affected as well. In this post, we will discuss the fallout of arguably the craziest offseason in NBA history.

Superstars On The Move

Brands Being Affected

Nike


Nike is the biggest shoe brand in the NBA. In addition to being the jersey sponsor of the league, the majority of NBA players are signed to shoe deals with Nike. Two of Nike’s biggest ambassadors happen to be Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, both of whom moved to play for the Brooklyn Nets. Having two huge superstars taking their talents to the biggest market in the USA makes for a huge benefit for Nike. Both players have unique characters that make them marketable and that will only be accentuated by playing in the Big Apple. Kyrie Irving gained 117k followers in the first 3 days of free agency after announcing his intent to sign with the Nets. Durant’s PE score of 73 for Nike and Irving’s 71 could be a lot more valuable with a big market switch (see here for more on the Promotional Effectiveness (PE) Score). Nike, in addition to the boost from the bigger market, will have the ability to tailor marketing campaigns with both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant now as teammates. Nike is also the jersey provider of the NBA and is sure to see a huge spike in jersey sales for both players. 

New Balance


Arguably the best player in the NBA and one of New Balance’s biggest partners, Kawhi Leonard, will be taking his talents from Toronto to Southern California to play for the LA Clippers. This is big for New Balance as there have been reports of the shoe company preferring Leonard to move to a major market like Los Angeles though they have publicly committed to supporting him wherever he ended up. Marketing Kawhi Leonard can be difficult as he has virtually no social media presence. Hookit can’t even calculate a PE score for Leonard because of that. New Balance can try to make up for Kawhi’s lack of social media presence by pushing the LA celebrity story. Surely, any big time player will be easily marketable in the city of angels, right? Leonard’s appearance will be bigger in LA and there will be more eyes on him which means more eyes on New Balance and their products. Despite having no engagement rate or AAV, Leonard can still be a marketable athlete for New Balance and that will only get a boost from his change of scenery. Perhaps he will even develop a social media presence while he is there. 

Puma


Puma had two big ambassadors on the free agent market this summer, Demarcus Cousins and Danny Green. Cousins currently sports an abysmal PE score of 57 for Puma, who he recently signed with. Cousins is going to need to get that up if he is to be a real asset for them, but perhaps, like Kawhi, a move to Los Angeles will help. Being in LA should help bolster his social presence and another offseason recovering from his achilles injury could mean he is in store for a big bounce back year. Danny Green on the other hand, checks in with a PE score of 80 while promoting Puma, a solid PE score in and of itself. Partner that with a move to a bigger market and Puma should expect big things from the veteran shooting guard. Puma has recently made a big push for their new line of basketball shoes, signing countless young players and adding veterans to their portfolio as well. With more players in big markets it can only help improve their brand awareness and recognition.

Anta


Many people might not even know what Anta is or what they produce. Anta is a sports equipment company based in China and they happen to have a handful of NBA ambassadors. No player on their sponsored roster is better than Klay Thompson. Thompson didn’t actually change teams, he re-signed with the Warriors but there are still some implications here for Anta. Thompson may not have changed teams, but him staying with the Warriors ensures he will be in the massive Bay Area market. This is big for Anta considering the team is set to begin playing in a brand new stadium in downtown San Francisco next season where Klay Thompson will be one of the two main features of the Warriors squad now that Kevin Durant has departed for Brooklyn.

Ruffles


The famous chip company, Ruffles, made a major move this offseason. Within days of superstar Anthony Davis being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, Ruffles inked a deal with the 26 year old. Anthony Davis and his PE Score of 71 overall will take his talents and his chips to Los Angeles. By capitalizing on an elite player playing in the second biggest market in the US, Ruffles could see a huge return on their investment. Ruffles was also able to sign the deal quick enough that they were able to ride the wave and capitalize on the hype around him signing with the Lakers.

Jordan Brand


One of the most iconic brands in the shoe industry, Jordan had an interesting offseason. Michael Jordan himself is the owner of the Charlotte Hornets, the only team in the NBA sponsored by Jordan Brand. In addition to losing their big superstar and Jordan Brand ambassador,  Kemba Walker, to the Boston Celtics, the Hornets themselves are expected to have the worst record in the league this season according to Vegas. If the Hornets truly are that bad, there will be less attention on the team which means less attention on the only team sponsored by Jordan. There is some good news though. Both Kemba Walker and Russell Westbrook, who are sponsored by the Jordan brand, have relocated to bigger markets (Boston and Houston). With both superstars expected to have big seasons on competing teams, Jordan will hopefully gain better brand recognition through them. Westbrook has a stellar PE score while promoting Jordan (83) which will definitely be worth more in a top 10 media market. Unfortunately, some of these moves will be offset by Chris Paul, another Jordan athlete, being traded to Oklahoma City. This move to a small market to play for a team that is expected to miss the playoffs next season is not good and will hinder Chris Paul’s value as a promoter.

State Farm


Chris Paul is one of the most notable State Farm ambassadors, he has a PE score of 71 when promoting the insurance company. However, he was just traded to Oklahoma City, a much smaller market than Houston. Chris Paul is getting to the end of his career and he is starting to fall off in terms of production on the court. State Farm has had a steady partnership with Paul for a while now and they have even brought in teammate James Harden to his campaign as well. Will the duo still be together off the court for State Farm? Either way it will be interesting to see where State Farm goes with how they market Chris Paul going forward. 

Wrapping It Up

Aside from the wild movement of basketball talent this summer, it is clear that brands have also been affected. Brands need to be prepared for drastic changes to their partners.  Planning out sponsorship campaigns and making sure the most valuable ambassadors are signed is key to getting the highest possible ROI. Hookit provides the data necessary to make informed decisions about potential partners, in order to be prepared for any scenario brands need to fully understand how valuable their ambassadors will be no matter where they are playing. 


Written by Garrett Mosher

Garrett is entering his 4th year at San Diego State University. He is pursuing a degree in economics with a minor in information systems and has acquired skills in business, data analytics, and marketing. As a product marketing intern with Hookit, he has learned how to analyze the effectiveness of sports sponsorships with an emphasis on how brands drive value from their ambassadors. If you wish to contact him please don’t hesitate to reach out on his LinkedIn.

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