So, now that the craziness of NBA Free Agency had died down and everyone has gone to Vegas to put in their life’s savings on the Golden State Warriors to the win this year’s NBA Championship, I wanted to take a quick look at Durant’s move to the Warriors from a view off the court. In short, there are three brands that are greatly affected by KD going to the Bay Area… And here are my thoughts –
- The NBA
Even though Adam Silver has said he would like the league to look into updating the Collective Bargaining Agreement in order to level the league competitively, backstage he is probably jumping for joy at the prospect of Golden State’s Superteam. Why?… RATINGS!
When the Warriors made their record regular season run last season, sports fans were paying attention. Everyone wanted to know what the Warriors did that night, they were shocked when they lost and watched on baited breath whenever networks would “check-in” to their games if ANY team was close to beating them.
ESPN and TNT ensured that the Warriors were featured on their broadcasts, evening Sportscenters would cut-in with constant Golden State updates and the NBA Playoffs received their best ratings since ESPN and TNT purchased the rights. The NBA Finals received the largest ratings since Jordan’s final year with the Bulls in ’98!
The Warriors were a phenomenon last season and deservedly so… So what do you think is going to happen next year, now that they have added Kevin freakin’ Durant?????
My predictions… There will be a “Warriors Watch” on ESPN’s bottom scroll, Half of Golden State’s games will be nationally broadcasted and fans will be lucky if they can pay $100 for an Upper Level ticket to watch their team play the already-crowned champions.
Adam Silver and the NBA like this… But you didn’t think he’d publicly say that, did you?
- Under Armour
This is probably the biggest company and brand that is hurt by this move. In actuality, Nike just threw a haymaker on Under Armour’s chin.
Stephen Curry’s ascension into an NBA Champion and 2-time MVP has granted him “Superstar” status within the league and fans’ minds. Under Armour signed him to a partnership in 2013 and in just three seasons, they have made Curry into the Face of the UA Basketball department (maybe even the face of the entire brand) and just released their Curry 2.5 shoe… I don’t count the backlash for the Chef Curry 2.0 shoes because they have sold out!
Curry’s success on the court has turned Under Armour into a huge competitor off the court in the Basketball Shoe/Sneaker category, which has been dominated by Nike for almost 30 years. NPD Group analyst Matt Powell noted that Under Armour is the only major brand that showed growth in 2015-16 within the Performance Basketball category. Nike’s leading share of the market started to take a hit this year, with a drop in wholesale revenue compared to ’15 and the head of the Nike Basketball resigning last month.
Under Armour was the leading element in Nike’s poor ’15 – ’16 and Curry was set to become the face of a basketball brand that may not have been seen since Jordan and Nike.
Then, with one swift signature on a contract, Curry may not even be the best player on his own team!
If Stephen Curry’s performance on the court lowers even the slightest bit and loses his perception as one of the Top 5 Players in the league, Under Armour’s sales are going to suffer. If Kevin Durant comes in and becomes the Warriors’ best player, Under Armour’s sales are going to suffer. If Curry is no longer the man who takes the last shot of the game, Under Armour’s sales are going to suffer.
Curry himself is not going to suffer. It is written in stone that he is a two-time MVP, an NBA Champion, his contract with Under Armour runs through 2026 and he will receive a MAX Contract from Golden State next offseason. In short, Curry is going to be well off… But his “Curry 30” brand and NBA fans’ perception of him could be greatly affected by Durant coming to Golden State.
Before this move, I imagined that if Curry’s rocketship-like rise to stardom continued to grow, he would have the best chance at making a similar “brand impact” that Michael Jordan did. This is because he was the best player in the league and was the face on an entire Basketball brand, just like Jordan and Nike.
Under Armour is probably very nervous right now and hoping that Curry remains the focus of the Golden State Warriors… Because if he doesn’t, Under Armour could lose the entire market share that it worked so hard to wrestle away from Nike.
It just seems like that this is the brand that is “pulling the strings” behind the curtain, doesn’t it? The Great and Powerful Oz!!!!!
After all, there are some athletes who have said that, off the record, that they “work for Nike” versus their own team. Durant is currently under a 10-Year contract where the Swoosh pays him $30 Million a year, designs his own shoe and only next year will the NBA Team he actually plays for will be able to pay that much.
With Kobe Bryant retiring, Durant has now ascended as Nike’s #2 Man under the Nike Basketball banner. Already a bonafide superstar in the league, he could have stayed in Oklahoma City or gone to Boston and been the “Face of the Franchise” to continue his pursuit of a title. But he decided that winning a championship was the most important thing to him.
It just so happens that he goes to a team where his shoe company’s biggest competitor also plays. Sure, Durant and Curry will play together as a unit on the court, but they will be competing with each other when it comes to exposure off of the court. As mentioned previously, Nike has taken a pretty decent hit over the past couple of years, thanks to Curry’s rise to stardom and how Under Armour took advantage. Even Yahoo Sports reporter, Adrian Wojnarowski said that this move by Durant is a play at slowing down Under Armour’s momentum , referring to it as “a coup for Nike”. With Durant and Curry being two of the five best players in the league, there really isn’t an answer to the question “Who is now the leader of the Warriors?”. For now, they could be considered co-leaders of the Warriors and that seems to be following Nike’s plan. If this “co-leadership” labeling remains into the upcoming season, it will impact how Curry is perceived amongst fans, as mentioned in the Under Armour section.
In fact, Nike seems to be doing everything it can to project to the public that Kevin Durant is now the NEW leader of the Warriors! His new KD9 shoe just hit the shelves this month, with the company turning up the marketing so much that it sold out in a couple hours.
The company has also made a significant push to promote its partnership with USA Basketball for next month’s Olympics, where they have placed Durant front and center throughout all its promotional materials. Durant is also among the top United States athletes featured on this week’s Sports Illustrated cover, which previews next month’s Games. Durant wouldn’t be on there if he weren’t trying to be considered as the Leader of Team USA!
If you are the Leader of Team USA, you have to be considered the leader of your own NBA team? If not, that would be considered a demotion, right? Nike does not have a history of partnering with athletes who isn’t the elite player of their own team. Sure, they have a partnership with Kyrie Irving who is obviously second fiddle to LeBron in Cleveland. But they were partners before LeBron returned to Cleveland and this allowed Nike to have the freedom to do more “out of the ordinary” designs with his shoes (Exhibit A). But now he is a champion, which is something Durant cannot call himself.
Now he has his greatest chance to do so… On the most stacked team in NBA history, moving to the West Coast (a proverbial Advertising landscape) and his presence could undercut the rise of Stephen Curry in the eyes of the American consumer.
Could someone tell me how this move does not come up Nike’s way?