In 2017 it was reported that for the first time ever that Adidas had outsold the Air Jordan brand and climbed up the ladder to become the no. 2 sneaker selling company in the country, according to GQ and ESPN. Some attribute much of that success to Kanye West for his signature line of “Yeezy” sneakers. Being a pop culture figure may well have help attract newer consumers to the company, but it does not compare to the impact that athletes have on the industry.
Who is without question the biggest endorsee signed to the Adidas Company? That would be none other than the man whom signed the largest sneaker deal of all time in 2015: James Harden. According to Sam Amick of USA Today: “The three-time All-Star agreed to a deal with Adidas worth a combined $200 million over 13 years.” With James Harden having another spectacular season in route to what looks like an almost guaranteed Most Valuable Player award, it is only right to assume that his value to the company will only continue to rise.
Nike has been, without question, the most notable and prestigious shoe companies in recent memory. Since being founded in the year 1964 their trademark “Swoosh” logo has been a common sighting in many facets of the American lifestyle. Moreover, just as the logo hasbecome synonymous with the superior athletics, LeBron James has become synonymous with the company.
Aside from Michael Jordan, LeBron has been Nike’s biggest cash cow. He signed his first deal with the company as an 18-year-old high school senior destined to take the NBA by storm. According to Forbes, LeBron agreed to a 7-year, $90 million contract ahead of the 2003 NBA draft.
At the time, that was the largest deal Nike had ever signed. Since then, he has reached heights to which no other athlete has come close. In late 2015, LeBron became the first athlete to sign a lifetime deal with a sneaker company. In an interview with GQ Style magazine, LeBron’s longtime friend and business manager Maverick Carter hinted that the lifetime deal may be worth well over $1 billion.
With James Harden continuing his rise to stardom and LeBron’s unanimous status as the best basketball player on the planet, it is not hard to foresee that they both will continue to be marketing juggernauts for their respective companies.
But how would that dynamic work if they were in the same demographic market?
Upon the conclusion of the 2017-2018 NBA season, LeBron James will be a free agent and able to sign with whatever team he deems worthy of his talents. At age 33, the tail-end of his career is on the horizon. With that in mind he plans to spend his last years on a team in a “win-now” situation with their roster.
One of the most fitting places for LeBron to land would be with the Houston Rockets. Not only would his stats tremendously inflate under Coach Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced system, but one of his closest friends and the godfather to his children, future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul is also on the team. The two of them have expressed interest in playing with one another since taking home the gold in the 2012 Olympics with Team USA Basketball.
But Paul wouldn’t be the only superstar player that LeBron would be joining. James Harden is also a member of the Houston Rockets organization. James Harden has not only been the face of Adidas, but also the face of the Houston Rockets since being traded from Oklahoma City Thunder on October 27, 2012.
So would there be room in Houston for another marketing bigshot?
The thought of the inviting the biggest competition into an already strongly controlled market should scare the suits off of many CEOs.
Athletes create legacies through their accomplishment, and many are willing to succeed at any cost. In this situation, the success of both athletes is contingent upon the performance of the other. For instance, if LeBron does decide to sign with the Rockets and they become in NBA Champions, then both the face of Nike and the face of Adidas would then be a current champion. Their personal success would always be equal to the others, which would minimize their value to their respective companies.
Will King James be willing to sacrifice his edge in apparel sales to gain an edge on the court? In terms of basketball dominance, this could be a power move. In terms of business, this move could be disastrous.