Puma Adds Deandre Ayton, Jay-Z As Part Of New Basketball Effort
Projected No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Deandre Ayton has "signed a four-year, multimillion-dollar footwear and apparel endorsement deal with Puma," according to Nick DePaula of ESPN.com. Ayton, a Bahamas native, shares a Caribbean connection with two of Puma's "biggest ambassadors" -- Gold Medal-winning sprinter Usain Bolt and singer Rihanna. While other brands "pitched Ayton with their own multiyear endorsement offers, it was the ability to create his own path alongside the relaunch of Puma's basketball category that most appealed to him." The brand's return to the NBA comes as part of a "major investment to sign players and launch new products in the market this fall." Puma has been "aggressive leading up to the draft, offering multiyear shoe deals to at least six projected first-round picks." The brand is also set to announce a "renewed lifetime partnership with longtime brand icon" and Basketball HOFer Walt Frazier, who "launched Puma's first-ever signature basketball shoe" in '73. As the brand begins to "focus its marketing campaigns this week around the NBA draft, Ayton will also look to be a featured athlete in lifestyle campaigns." Being able to "expand beyond just basketball was a major factor during the pitch process for him, along with the ability to launch activations and products in his native Bahamas, where Puma has extensive experience." Ayton will join top prospects Marvin Bagley III and Zhaire Smith as the "first to sign with Puma in its renewed emphasis on basketball" (ESPN.com, 6/18).
GROWING THE BRAND: In Phoenix, Clevis Murray noted Ayton and Bagley "could become the North American faces of Puma, whose biggest client are in the NFL" with Patriots WR Julian Edelman, Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney and free agent RB Jamaal Charles. Being with Puma is an "opportunity for Ayton to not live under the shadow of the superstars, such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant (Nike), James Harden and Damian Lillard (Adidas) and Stephen Curry (Under Armour)." Typically players with ties to companies since their amateur status will "sign with them once they go pro, but Bagley and Ayton are somewhat bucking that trend" (AZCENTRAL.com, 6/18). YAHOO SPORTS' Daniel Roberts noted golfer Rickie Fowler "dresses in head-to-toe, bright orange Puma gear on the course and has arguably done more to promote the brand than any other US athlete in the last few years" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/18). ESPN's Nick DePaula said Puma is "trying to get a more balanced roster" of NBA endorsers. Shoe deals for players like 76ers C Joel Embiid, Pelicans F DeMarcus Cousins and Wizards F Kelly Oubre Jr. expire in October, and DePaula said, "There's a lot of interesting names for established All-Star-level players that Puma could talk to and potentially sign” (“Get Up!,” ESPN, 6/19).
MORE THAN THE GAME: CNBC’s Eric Chemi noted Puma is "all of a sudden back into hoops with a bang." Ayton and Bagley were drawn to Puma because of the "entertainment factor that this provides," as Puma "already has deals with Meek Mill, Rihanna, Kylie Jenner and they’ve got global sports endorsers." Chemi: "This is going to be a big fight with all these shoe companies." Chemi said the “thing about basketball shoes it’s much more about the off-court fashion sense of it, and that’s why these guys wanted to get involved with Puma" (“Power Lunch,” CNBC, 6/18). ESPN's Jalen Rose: "What they have done is they continue to establish themselves as not only a performance brand, but as a lifestyle" ("Get Up!," ESPN, 6/19). ESPN’s Mike Golic Jr.: "It’s a brand that is trying to deliver on the idea of culture and they want to integrate what we are doing in music into culture with these guys that are firmly part of that." He added, “The guys signing these contracts are guys that grew up understanding the significance of sneakers and what it means in your cool factor" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 6/19).
ALLOW ME TO REINTRODUCE MYSELF: COMPLEX's Aaron Mansfield noted Jay-Z, who founded Roc Nation, also has joined Puma with the official designation as "creative consultant," but he will "not be involved in selecting players" for the company's basketball division. Puma Global Dir of Brand & Marketing Adam Petrick said, "We've been working with Roc Nation for quite some time. They've been great partners to us for several years. We've done many different deals with many different ambassadors." Petrick said that when Puma approached him about this opportunity, Jay-Z felt it was "something he wanted to be a part of" (COMPLEX.com, 6/18). ESPN.com's DePaula noted Jay-Z is "expected to be leading brand creative direction for marketing campaigns" and will also "have a voice on product." Jay-Z has already "been in business with Puma for over a year." The brand "outfitted him in Puma sneakers and apparel" during his '17 tour to "promote his '4:44' album." Roc Nation Sports has also had a "history of doing deals with Puma," as several of the agency's clients have "signed endorsement deals with the brand" (ESPN.com, 6/18). ESPN's Mike Golic said, "I don't think there's any doubt that Jay-Z will have any influence here with what he's done with Roc Nation and just how monstrous he is, having an effect on these guys" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 6/19).