$265 million. $285 million. Two dollar amounts that represent the range that Under Armour is willing to pay as it tries to acquire the 2014 NBA MVP in Kevin Durant as its pitchman. This sponsorship deal could prove to be one of the largest ever signed, and it would give the Maryland-based company an in-state export to lay the foundation in an emerging basketball retail ecosystem.
However, as it stands right now, Kevin Durant is an endorser of Nike. For the last seven seasons, KD’s put on for the
Seattle Supersonics Oklahoma City Thunder and The Swoosh, and both have taken him to the highest levels of superstardom. From being named the league’s Most Valuable Player, winning a gold medal and becoming a brand leader (per Jalen Rose, KD just might’ve sold more shoes than LeBron James in 2013-14), the world has been Kevin Durant’s … as a Swoosh man.
No deal had been completed as of Tuesday, but the idea that a player as big in sports as Durant could switch brands seems crazy. In fact, that we as fans are so consumed about what brand a player endorses seems crazy, and that’s pretty cool.
Today on TSFJ, we’ve gathered 11 of your favorite influential voices from around the internet to discuss their feelings on Kevin Durant possibly taking his talents anywhere besides the giant shoe conglomerate in Beaverton. These folks are sneaker designers, brand influencers, sports fans and culture appreciators, and they’ve got something to say. Listen to their thoughts, and weigh in on the discussion in the comments section. Let’s go.
I think it has a lot of effect on him. He has built a reputation as being humble and homegrown but is now leaving the company that has invested seven years into him. I think that takes a hit at some of his credibility, especially with the money he is receiving for it. If he spins the move in a sense that he didn’t like the price of his shoes with Nike and wanted it to be more affordable for the youth, then I think it could work. And I think that that scenario instantly builds a new brand for UA.
The issue I see is that the consumers who follow him to UA will always remember what he had at Nike. This isn’t a Kobe leaving Adidas scenario, where the shoe line was young and very provocative to the consumers. This was an established line with a following that was successful. Leaving it behind leaves a large gap at Nike product-wise, especially with the KD7 just launching, but Nike is amazing at building stories and will build a new story around a new player. The one flaw that all of these brands don’t seem to grasp is their storytelling isn’t original. It follows everything Nike has done and Nike has proven already.
For Under Armour to be successful with KD, it has to go in a whole new direction. If the folks at Under Armour don’t, it won’t work as everyone has a preconceived notion as to what KD is — which in return affects how we see KD as a whole. If they piggyback off of what has already been created, then what’s the point of all of this? Just for UA to say it finally took something from Nike?
I want to see Under Armour take KD in a whole new direction. There is no aggressive marketing with athletes anymore. Everyone is too nice. Make KD be tenacious. Make him be stronger then he really is. Make him not be a “nice guy.” If they do that, they can succeed. But one thing is for sure, if he leaves Nike, don’t think the Nike folks will take this lightly. Nike will do everything in its power to make sure it more than compete and flat out destroy UA. I hope Under Armour believes competition is healthy because it just started a war.
Brett Golliff | Footwear Extraordinaire | BrettGolliff.com
While “hey bro, I’m saving funds for those new KD Under Armours” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, it’s very much a reality. KD — Iceberg Slim, Durantula, whatever you want to call him — is already his own brand. The fact that he could slide on over to Under Armour and actually create success for UA in its basketball shoe sector speaks volumes on Durant himself and also on how the public views brands.
Can Durant really lose here when he’s guaranteed at least $265 million no matter which company he chooses? His decision will likely affect the endorsements market. What will other athletes do when faced with the “underdogs” vs. the popular brand decision? If Nike still lands him even with the incentives UA threw in, it could mean game over for competitors. The one at risk here is Under Armour. If it’s marketing to a younger demographic, which admires Durant, it will work.
It will be harder to get the 20-somethings to leave their Nike allegiance and find Under Armour “cool.” Based on the look of its current basketball shoes — well, good luck.
Tanisha Robinson | Queen Sports Bee Of New Orleans | GumbeauxSports.com
I’ve been following this story for a few weeks now, and I haven’t formed an opinion as of yet. I’m eager to see what Kevin Durant decides to do. His relationship with Swoosh has been so fruitful. Durant has been a staple in Nike’s basketball line, and the marketing has boosted Durant’s global recognition. Their brands are woven together so tightly. Apparently Nike owns the trademark for “KD.”
It’s no secret that the kids aren’t fond of Under Armour’s kicks. Basketball makes up 1% of UA’s business, but maybe that’s why it wants to ignite growth with a major signing. The only problem is that it’ll spend 10% of its marketing budget on one dude. What happens if Durant has a big injury a la PG-13 (weak-ass nickname, btw)? It is difficult for me to envision one of my favorite players running the court in some fugly kicks, but it’s not about me. It’s about how the Slim Reaper (& Jay-Z) envision career, brand and legacy.
At this point, the offer is on the table. Kevin’s gonna get paid. UA is trying to make moves, and the executives are willing to gamble for immediate impact. Nike needs to assess whether it sees Durant as part of its future.
Larry Luk | Designer Of Dope Stuff | WeAreTheProcess.com
For me, it’s all about those pros and those cons.
Pros: First, Kevin would finally get out of the LeBron and Kobe Nike shadow. While it’s not a bad place to sit, he’s a marquee player, and he wouldn’t be numero uno in Nikeland for quite some time. The Under Armour deal brings Kevin right to the top of a brand hierarchy that will not only pay him at a premium, but will give him more creative control. Second, this bold of a move could very well change the way we look at monolithic brands. Personally, I think it’d be pretty dope to see a more varied landscape on the sneaker front. Third, let us not act like damn near $300 million wouldn’t make each and every one of us hit a swift …
Cons: Name your favorite Under Armour shoe. Exactly. There is absolutely no guarantee that KD’s joints would even be a silhouette folks want to wear after the hype. Lastly, there really is something to be said about staying loyal to one place, aside from the obvious ride-or-die story line. I’d love to see Leo Chang be to KD what Tinker is to MJ.
Channing Beumer | Baroness Blogger Of Music x Kicks | Chan-Lo.com
Two sides to the coin. One side says KD stays with Nike to maintain a relationship with the brand he’s favored since he was a kid. The creative team at Nike has done a remarkable job telling his stories, developing him into a star. The other side of the coin says get the money while you can (because an athlete’s earning years are limited) and take the chance on building a whole new legacy with a brand from closer to home.
As much as I love Nike and know UA hasn’t shown any potential game-changing designs for the hardwood, I wouldn’t be mad if Slim Reaper jumped ship. Nike’s been coasting with no true competition for too long. Give it a reason to show its muscle again.
John Gotty | Sneaker & Music Sensei | SmokingSection.net
Durant leaving for Under Armour would be major for UA Basketball. The company’s been slowly building its basketball roster over the past couple years with names like Kemba Walker and Steph Curry, but it doesn’t have anyone the with the elite status that KD has right now. I don’t doubt that Under Armour’s design team could put together a performance-ready shoe for the reigning MVP, but Nike’s marketing and insight on demand creation is on another level. So when it comes to KD’s personal brand, Nike might offer the better platform. But then again, with Roc Nation sports behind you, Nike may not be necessary. And, that’s a lot of money on the table.
Gerald Flores | EIC & Sneaker Savant | SoleCollector.com
As someone who closely followed Stephen Curry’s departure from Nike to Under Armour, I don’t want Kevin Durant leaving the Swoosh. Maybe I’m selfish, but I feel that Curry is just now establishing himself as a superstar, and as UA’s primary basketball client (sorry Corey Brewer) I want the company to build with him. Plus, with Nike’s fantastic history with advertising and creativity, I feel that Durant’s brand would be best served sticking around. Now, as for Durant’s wallet …
Jordan Ramirez | Warriors Nerd Extraordinare | WarriorsWorld.com
If I’m Durant, I’m taking that money, provided Nike doesn’t match. Nike’s been in the game forever, and I’d trust it to put a better-looking shoe than Under Armour. And judging by how fashion-conscious KD is, a tie would have to go Nike, I think. And who could blame him?
But if Nike doesn’t match, $26 million to $28 million a year of UA money tops his current salary, plus stock options, rec center, etc. How can you pass that up? Even if UA doesn’t put a dent in Nike’s market share — and it won’t, because come on — that’s money in the bank.
Will Thompson | Curator Of Insane Amounts Of Content | Yardbarker.com
The way endorsement deals are going, you’d think this was the EPL Transfer Window for how much money is being tossed around. That being said, Durant and Nike have a fit about them, something a $285 million deal with UA cannot replicate. Sometimes, brands only enhance the player they’ve signed. Nobody is copping Li-Nings, and Under Armour’s main product to me has always been athletic wear for everything but your feet.
UA wants him to be its Jordan. The only problem is, you simply cannot re-create lightning in a bottle. Under Armour has gotten good press from this, but it hasn’t even done the most basic step — create a shoe for anyone the consumer will buy.
Brandon Caldwell | The Musical Word Of The 3rd Ward | DayAndADream.com
If Kevin Durant leaves for Under Armour, it would broaden the sneaker brand representation of high-profile athletes more so than it has ever been. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen stars like Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo and others leave the major and most popular brands for lesser-known sneaker companies for various reasons — money, individuality, stake in company, etc. — and all of these enticing reasons seem to play big parts in Durant’s decision to potentially move to UA.
I think, whether he moves to UA or remains a Nike Basketball athlete, his personal brand will substantially grow from this summer; this deal has been followed closely by seemingly everyone. From a brand standpoint, if he remains with the brand that he signed with as a rookie, it would further prove the power Nike holds in the playing field amongst the masses. If he leaves, the brand representation for Under Armour to have the second best player in the NBA would be huge, and that would further confirm Under Armour’s ever-increasing growth in the basketball sneaker field.
George Kiel III | Kick & Roller | NiceKicks.com
For Kevin Durant, this is simple to assess. You either bank (pun intended) on having the biggest endorsement deal in world with Under Armour taking baby steps in basketball’s shallow water with just 1% market share, or you lean on the foundational brilliance that Nike has built for over three decades with quality shoes, storytelling and innovation. There’s something to be said about being a trailblazer, but you have to wonder if that’s what would translate into something successful in the long term.
For Nike versus Under Armour, this much is clear: Under Armour desperately wants to get into the basketball market that Nike dominates in. Can Nike afford to match UA’s offer? Would that mean that LeBron would get a raise? Also, is Kevin Durant good enough to build a newly branded empire when other athletes on the brand are Steph Curry and a bunch of guys I’ve never heard of before …
Either way, it should be fun … so long as KD doesn’t leave.
Eddie Maisonet III | HSFIC | The Sports Fan Journal
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”