In the past, recruitment was a layup for powerhouse brands like Nike, Jordan and Adidas—rookies would sign contracts, wide-eyed, without looking elsewhere unless they were forced to. A co-sign from one of the big footwear brands, plus their proven formula for exposure and access to massive production budgets trumped any other pitch.
But today, players don’t need to rely on sneaker brands to build their platform—they can build them themselves. Instead, the brand needs to fall in line with the player’s brand. And if it isn’t clear from the outfits of any pre-game tunnel shot, today’s NBA hooper has a very distinct brand from those who came before them.
Similar to their peers, they’re anti-establishment, savvy to media and branding and are terrified of fitting in. And now that players’ criteria when shopping for sneaker brands has become more complex, brands have had to become more creative in their recruitment.