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Volume 25 No. 107
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Under Armour Hopes Embiid Can Buck Big-Man Trend With Shoe Sales

76ers C Joel Embiid signed a five-year footwear and apparel endorsement deal with Under Armour, and the average annual value of the deal is expected to make Embiid the "highest-paid player at his position," according to sources cited by Nick DePaula of ESPN.com. Embiid submitted his "signed offer sheet on Sept. 28." His prior brand, Adidas, had up to 10 business days to "exercise its standard 'match clause' rights on the Under Armour offer sheet, but the company moved quickly and had notified Embiid and his CAA representatives by the following morning that it would be declining to match." Embiid was also "heavily courted by Puma and New Balance over the past month, but he keyed in on Under Armour as being his preferred destination early in the process." UA impressed Embiid with its "dedicated resources to building him custom-made footwear, additional charity commitments for the Philadelphia region and his homeland in Cameroon, and the potential to receive his own capsule releases of branded footwear and apparel" (ESPN.com, 10/10). Embiid said there were a "few brands involved, but I'm excited about the future and I feel like I made a great decision." In Philadelphia, Sarah Todd notes in his first community event with UA, Embiid yesterday "showed up to the Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Frankford" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/11). In Baltimore, Lorraine Mirabella notes UA, which has "struggled amid intense competition and changing consumer tastes for well over a year, has seen bright spots in basketball shoe sales." That has been "largely thanks to the brand’s biggest basketball ambassador," Curry, and his line of signature UA shoes (BALTIMORESUN.com, 10/10).

ART OF THE DEAL: ESPN.com's DePaula noted UA Senior Dir of Sports Marketing for Professional Basketball Kris Stone had "organized a detailed official pitch meeting for late August in Baltimore." Riding in a helicopter first with Embiid's CAA reps from N.Y. to Philadelphia, the group then "stopped to pick up" Embiid. During the pitch presentation, UA Founder, Chair & CEO Kevin Plank "held court, hosting Embiid and his team through an overview of Under Armour's brand history, upcoming technologies and future plans." Stone said that Embiid came away "impressed with Under Armour's commitment to marketing him, which will largely be focused on simply allowing the dynamic social media star to 'be him with no guardrails.'" After the presentation, Plank "requested additional one-on-one time with the engaging Embiid," as the two connected in his office for "more than 30 minutes." Plank was "drawn to that same brashness and competitive nature that the two shared." Within the next week, UA's current face of the company, Warriors G Stephen Curry, "sent Embiid a welcoming text message, encouraging him to join the brand and help grow the company together." Soon after, Patriots QB Tom Brady "sent a text message to offer up his excitement for Embiid" (ESPN.com, 10/10). In an essay published on UA's website, Embiid explained his decision to join the brand.

CHANCE TO END STEREOTYPES: ESPN's Michael Wilbon noted big guys "don't usually move shoes," but added he hopes Embiid does. Wilbon: "He's so charismatic. Maybe he can sell shoes, the first big guy to do it" ("PTI," ESPN, 10/10). ESPN's Pablo Torre noted Shaquille O'Neal was the rare big man to "move shoes," but he did it a "specific way." Torre: "He went to Wal-Mart and Payless. If Joel Embiid and Under Armour are going to thumb their noses at the sneakerheads and sneaker elites and bring this product to the people, this dude could actually pull that specific thing off." But ESPN's Bomani Jones said of Under Armour, "They're not trying to sell shoes at Wal-Mart or Payless. They are trying to sell shoes in a way that Joel Embiid is not going to do. Joel Embiid is not making people look at Under Armour and say, 'Oh man, I'm looking at them in a different light.' We're looking at Embiid like, 'Damn dawg, you're going to be out here rocking Under Armours?" ("High Noon," ESPN, 10/10).