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Volume 26 No. 5

Marketing and Sponsorship

Williamson's highest off-court earnings opportunity may be his future shoe contract

Zion Williamson is expected to return to Duke for the ACC Tournament tonight, and he has "benefited mightily ... on and off the court" from his year in Durham, but his time at the school has also offered a "chance for Williamson to become Zion," according to Dan Greene of SI. A year of "nationally televised dominance in prime time has upped his visibility," elevating Williamson from a "highlight-producing curiosity to a household name sure to be flooded with off-court earnings opportunities the minute he turns pro." Foremost among those deals will be Williamson's shoe contract, the "centerpiece of any NBA star's endorsement portfolio." But he will "enter an unpredictable market" as of recent years. Sources are "projecting a deal with a total value" anywhere from $30-80M. Many "expected Nike to be the favorite to sign him given its extensive resources and deep ties to both Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski." But after Williamson's left foot infamously shredded his Paul George-model Nike shoe, the brand signing Williamson "would be a chance to mend a major p.r. wound." A shoe deal "may only be the start of Williamson's advertising allure," as it is not hard to see how he "would be valuable to electronics companies, sports drinks and chain eateries, among others." Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing President Doug Shabelman: "You're gonna see everybody wanting to get involved. I don't think it's out of the realm whatsoever to say that he's gonna be in that eight-figure range right off the bat" (SI, 3/11 issue).

BIG DECISION: Former footwear exec Sonny Vaccaro said Williamson's worth to a shoe company right now would be "off the wall." Vaccaro: "Zion, at this point in time, is as popular an athlete as there is on earth" (, 3/13). SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL's Michael Smith writes the "nearly endless replays of Williamson’s left foot ripping through a Nike shoe last month will certainly create market pressure on the brand to sign Williamson" when he turns pro. Marketing experts said that if Williamson signs with a brand other than Nike, the "perception will be that he didn’t trust the shoe." That factor, along with "what could be a hypercompetitive bidding war between the big three of Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, as well as possibly New Balance and Puma, could produce millions in income for Williamson before he even plays a game in the NBA" (SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/11 issue).

CHANGING PERCEPTION: THE UNDEFEATED's Jesse Washington wrote there was once a time in college basketball that black fans "had a special sort of hate for Duke." However, an ESPN Sports Poll shows that black fans “now root for Duke at higher rates than the general population.” Two years ago, 12% of “black college basketball enthusiasts identified as Duke fans,” compared with 8% of all college basketball fans. So far this season, 24% of the "audience for Duke games on ESPN is black," compared with 21% for all games (, 3/11).

Former NBAer Robert Horry poses in a Wish shirt at a Lakers game earlier this season

Wish is in the second year of its jersey patch sponsorship with the Lakers, and the online retailer regularly offers courtside seats at Staples Center to celebrities "on the condition that they wear a Wish T-shirt during the game," according to David Cohen of ADWEEK. That strategy "proved a success when Kendall Jenner sported a black Wish T-shirt" at the team's home opener this season, which coincided with LeBron James' first home game with the Lakers, and "images appeared all over the press." Singer Halsey quickly "followed suit," while other celebs have "gone even further." Snoop Dogg agreed to an "on-court interview where he picked out five products he would buy for his friends on Wish," and Jenner and Martha Stewart helped Kobe Bryant "shop for items on the app." Wish Managing Dir of Partnerships Sam Jones said that the Lakers' "intimate relationships with its celebrity fans helped seal the deal," adding that things "may have been different if Wish tried approaching those same celebrities directly." Jones called the overall sponsorship with the Lakers a "raging success." He said, "The Lakers have been easy to deal with. They have granted full access beyond the contractual terms. And then LeBron James joined and created a tidal wave. ... I can’t tell you the number of airports I’ve been in where I’ve seen LeBron on the front page, or in a video game, or the Nike app, with the jersey patch" (, 3/13).

M&T Bank began its relationship with the Bills in '85, and struck a deal for official-bank status in '03

Buffalo-based M&T Bank renewed its "long-standing sponsorship as the 'official bank' of the Bills, signing a five-year deal" that runs through '23, according to Matt Glynn of the BUFFALO NEWS. Financial terms were not disclosed. M&T began its relationship with the Bills in '85, and struck a deal for "official-bank status" in '03. Five-year extensions such as this latest one have followed since. The deal gives M&T "exclusive rights to issue Bills-branded checking and debit cards, and the bank has its name on a variety of seating areas inside New Era Field." The Bills and M&T will continue its "Touchdown for Teachers" program that "recognizes outstanding teachers in the region." The Bills also will continue to support for the bank's "Gift of Warmth" drive. An additional "community program" will debut before the '19 season, though details were not disclosed. As part of deal's renewal, Bills co-Owner Kim Pegula, coach Sean McDermott and LB Lorenzo Alexander "fielded questions from students" at a local school and put them "through a series of football drills, with Alexander showing off his quarterbacking skills and McDermott coaching the kids" (BUFFALO NEWS, 3/14).

Unanimous Media, Warriors G Stephen Curry's production company, has signed a partnership agreement with transportation company Lyft to sponsor the second season of Curry's original YouTube series, "5 Minutes From Home." Financial details were not disclosed. The first season was viewed more than 21 million times across digital platforms. The second season, which includes five episodes, debuts today on Curry’s YouTube channel. In each episode, Curry is joined by a celebrity as he leaves Oracle Arena following a Warriors game to stop for a late-night meal at a local food truck in Oakland. This season's guests include 76ers C Joel Embiid, Gold Medal-winning U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky, actor Daveed Diggs, rapper E-40 and Fortnite gamers Myth and Hamlinz. Curry drove around in an unmarked van during the first season, but he and his guests will be driven in a Lyft car this time around. The series is being co-produced by Lyft's original content arm, Lyft Entertainment.

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