(This is a guest article by Anthony Alsop)
When it comes to basketball shoes (or as the kids call them, “kicks”) we all know the big brands like Nike, Adidas and Reebok, but there are some new players starting to enter the market.
In recent times the shoe industry has seen a ‘land grab’ of NBA players like Baron Davis, Jason Kidd, Shane Battier, Ron Artest and Damon Jones who have all signed with Chinese shoe companies. Recently, There was news that Kevin Garnett has reportedly signed with a Chinese company too, partnering with sports apparel firm ANTA. Garnett is leaving Adidas even though he signed a lifetime contract with the company back in 2003, and will be joining his fourth shoe company (he had previously been with Nike and And1).
Just like with traditional marketing, is there brand loyalty when it comes to sports apparel?
“I am my own marketing plan,” Garnett said. “People know what’s real and what’s not real. I’m not going to dress something up and make up a couple lines and put on a different character. The best thing is for me to be me and Adidas loves that.”
Will fans who have bought Kevin Garnett’s shoes in the past now go out and buy his new shoe, will they stick with Adidas, or move to a different brand completely? After spending hundreds of dollars on shoes, where does their brand loyalty lie?
Garnett is in an odd position. The 2004 NBA Most Valuable Player is coming to the latter part of his career, and injuries have made him miss a large part of the last two NBA seasons, but he recently signed a three year extension. Marketing wise, he is in a better position as that three year deal offers brands like ANTA three more years of marketing exposure, and with the Celtics likely to be in the playoffs, that is three long years.
Li Ning, one of China’s most popular sports labels signed Los Angeles Clippers point guard Baron Davis in 2008. Since then he has been the face of Li Ning’s first store outside of China (in Nike territory of Portland, Oregon), has visited China for product launches, and ran a marketing campaign in New York where he ran the city marathon in his Li-Ning’s. Li-Ning is a multi-billion dollar company in China, but relatively unknown in the United States, and by getting a shoe free agent like Davis it allowed them to enter the US market with a bang.
This is not to say that all the big names are heading overseas. Getting one back for the old school is Reebok, who signed Kentucky guard John Wall to a 5 year/$25m deal. Wall beat the media speculation and rumors by announcing the deal on Twitter.
With their most marketable asset Allen Iverson most likely retiring, Reebok (which is now owned by Adidas) needed to shake up the market and get attention back to its basketball brand. Apart from Chinese superstar Yao Ming, Reebok’s current list of basketball talent includes players like Brevin Knight, Jason Smith, Gabe Pruitt and Wille Green. Not the most marketable names in the NBA.
With the hype and potential that John Wall brings, can he stop the apparent exodus of NBA players to Chinese brands while also becoming the new answer to Reebok’s brand problems?
Anthony Alsop is a blogger, consultant and founder of sportspiel.com.au. He has worked previously in both the IT and sport sectors, so focusing on the niche of social media and sport was a natural fit. Anthony is from Melbourne, Australia which was recently named the sporting capital of the world and has consulted with sporting organisations both in Australia and in the United States. He is also running Australia’s premier sport and social media event, the Digital Sport Summit. You can find him on Twitter @anthonyalsop or via email