In the sneaker business, does The "cool factor" trump talent? For the $20 billion business, basketball shoes symbolize lots of different things. They have the unique ability to connect consumers to their favorite players, they are considered luxury items at $100+ price tags and they tap into consumers obsession with winners. But for athletes, getting that signature shoe deal is typically reserved for the biggest on-court personalities (Jordan, Kobe, LeBron). So when Stephen Curry was snatched from a potential Nike endorsement by Under Armour, it was all in the attention to detail.
"It's highly possible that back in 2013 Curry wasn't considered cool enough, relative to the building Kyrie Irving phenomenon. Both happened to play the same position and redundancy is a real issue in marketing. For these companies, it's imperative that whomever they're selling is defined and distinct." - ESPN
A family man, approachable, non threatening... on paper, Stephen Curry sounds like the boy next door. He's essentially the guy you friend zoned all through college and claimed is your "bestest friend" to all the scumbags you dated instead. He's not physically intimidating, which is perhaps why many overlooked his dominance. So quickly we forget that ol' adage "don't judge a book by its cover"
"Nike, to be fair, can't be faulted for failing to foresee the current Steph Curry reality. That reality is just too surreal. Few predicted anything like last year's MVP and championship season. And so far this season, he's making those numbers look quaint. Even Curry's confidants confide they never saw this coming. Those who most deeply believed in Steph Curry, those who, for years, argued on his behalf, couldn't have imagined thousands of fans on the road, showing up 75 minutes before the tipoff, just to catch a glimpse of his warm-up."
Talented and able to appeal to the everyman? That's where Steph found his niche. That is also where other large corporations failed to notice that not every consumer is built like a LeBron James. Folks actually like relating to their beloved sports stars! Go figure.
So where exactly did it go wrong? How did Stephen Curry end up at Under Armour? Here's some things to note...
Lesson #1: Protect your assets
It's said that Nike lacked interest before Steph’s pitch meeting. There was the matter of whether Curry would get to lead a Nike-sponsored camp. They gave Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis a camp that year, but Steph… not so much.
Lesson #2: Pay attention to detail
A Nike official accidentally addressed Stephen as "Steph-on" early on in the meeting and failed to correct the mistake. It got worse when the 'copy-paste' job in their power point slide referenced Kevin Durant.
Lesson #3: Never underestimate the underdog
ESPN said it best-- "Curry and James aren't just salvos in a battle between brands; it's a personal war to see whose cultural impact resonates years after they've retired. It's a fight for something even bigger than a basketball career. And right now, despite four MVPs and two championships, LeBron James is losing."
Lesson #4: Make positive word-of-mouth work for you
Curry was essentially sold on the UA deal by a teammate who felt like the company really supported their players (even the ones who barely got minutes on court) and made a case for Curry and eased a lot of leg work on Under Armour's behalf.