Nike shoe malfunction is likely to heat up sneaker war for Zion Williamson

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Imagine a sneaker ad featuring Zion Williamson that looks like this.

The 6-foot-7, 285-pound Williamson is in a gym wearing basketball shorts and a jersey. He’s surrounded by half a dozen sneaker technicians dressed in cool white coats. He attempts dunk after dunk, but blows into a different pair of sneakers with each attempt, his foot exploding through the faulty shoes as he expresses increasing frustration each time.

Eventually, he gets the perfect pair and climbs over the rim for a to die for a dunk to the ground in which he watches the rim before passing the ball through the basket. Once he lands he displays his characteristic big smile and says, “This is the perfect sneaker for me.”

“We eventually developed the Zion Williamson X-50 Super Air,” says Stentor’s voice in the ad. “Now available to superstars like you.”

As Williamson heads for the inevitable sneaker deal this spring, a future in that direction awaits. And given that he just blew up a Nike PG 2.5 sneaker in Wednesday’s game against North Carolina, resulting in a Grade 1 knee sprain that put him in the day-to-day bidding war on his sneaker contract is only probable. intensify.

“Nike is going to say, ‘We had to design a special sneaker for Zion Williamson because it’s so fantastic and if you want to be fantastic like Zion Williamson, you’re going to have this sneaker as well,” ”Michael Leeds, chair of the department. Temple University economics and an expert in sports economics said Friday in a telephone interview. “And the other people are going to say, ‘We make sneakers that don’t break.'”

He added, “Other companies see an opportunity and Nike sees a vulnerability. One part will try to exploit it, and the other will try to stem it in some way. You will see these two events. I can’t put a number in dollars, but I can tell you that I think it’s going to be worth millions and millions of dollars for Zion Williamson. As long as he’s healthy, that’s the best thing that can happen to him. No matter what it was worth, and it was worth a lot for a sneaker company, it just adds zeros at the end. “

It’s too early to know what Williamson’s sneaker deal will be worth, but it comes with a built-in audience that includes 2.3 million Instagram followers and 227,000 Twitter followers. Various industry experts have said his deal could be worth between $ 50 million and $ 100 million.

“That’s the number it should be, I don’t know,” said local sneaker guru Sonny Vaccaro, who signed both Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant for sneaker deals, and was also involved. in LeBron James negotiations.

“If Duke wins the national championship and becomes this mega-thing, he’s the star on TV now. It’s a varied number right now and that’s my truthful answer. There are a lot of variables. “

Bob Dorfman of Baker Street Advertising added, “In 2007, Kevin Durant raised $ 60 million over seven years with a signing bonus of $ 12 million. Assuming he’s healthy and helps Duke get far in the NCAA tournament, Zion could get $ 100 million.

There are already chances on which company will sign Williamson with Adidas (5/4) leading Nike (3/2), according to BetOnline.ag. Puma (9/2), New Balance (16/1), Under Armor (16/1) and Big Baller (100/1) follow.

“I think it’s safe to say that every shoe company will offer it a deal,” said a former sneaker industry source.

Puma, who signed Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 in the NBA Draft last year, already took an early hit against Nike on Wednesday night when Williamson picked up an injury. They tweeted, “That wouldn’t have happened to Pumas,” then deleted the Tweet.

According to Leeds, Nike can turn what appears to be negative into positive.

“In a way, if Nike plays well, they can turn what initially looks like a disaster into an opportunity,” Leeds said. “That’s the old Oscar Wilde quote, the only thing worse than talking about it is not talking about it.”

Vaccaro agrees that Nike will go even stronger after Williamson now, if at all possible.

“They will do everything to cover [the faulty sneaker] and they can do whatever they think they need to do financially, ”he said. “I don’t think Zion’s family will allow this to interfere with the market value of this particular child. They are Nike.

ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla said he could also imagine ways Nike could turn this into publicity.

“It adds to the legend of Zion,” said Fraschilla. “He’s so strong he blew up a pair of shoes on a simple cut. I hope he’s not seriously hurt, but if he isn’t seriously hurt, this could be one of the big marketing ploys Nike got into because he’s like Zeus. He makes LeBron look small in high school.

He added, “He’s really the first guy since LeBron that you almost absolutely know he’s going to sell shoes for any company he signs up with. And for me, based on Nike’s marketing genius over it. years, it seems logical that they are. I won’t let him out of the Nike family.

In the recent NBA All-Star Game, half of the 26 players wore Nike sneakers, and five others wore the Jordan brand. Three wore Adidas, two Under Armor and one player each wore New Balance, Anta and Chinese clothing company Li-Ning.

Of course, other companies will fight back and argue that Nike has failed Williamson before.

These other companies may also gift Williamson a signature shoe, although it is not clear whether Williamson would have his own shoe or simply join the Nike or Brand Jordan brands.

“If a small business doesn’t make the offer of a signature shoe, then it shouldn’t even go in,” Vaccaro said. “It was definitely something that was important to Michael Jordan 40 years ago. It has to be a signature shoe, it has to be.

He said it might be more difficult for Nike to offer a signature shoe because they already have so many stars in their team who don’t have them.

“It’s difficult for Nike to do that because they have the biggest players in the world wearing the shoe right now,” he said. “Russell [Westbrook] still wears the Jordan branding if I’m not mistaken. It’s the Westbrook shoe but it’s under the Jordan brand. “

One thing seems clear, Williamson is a unique talent, and he is now in an even more important position than he was at the start of this week.


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