The New York Knicks‘ third overall pick RJ Barrett inked a multiyear endorsement deal with PUMA. The deal gives the footwear and apparel brand an opportunity to develop its first big market superstar.
The NBA and signature shoes are a match made in heaven, quite frankly in today’s culture, you’ll find some way somehow to associate one with the other. All the big shoe and apparel companies have a superstar or superstars that are synonymous with the brands they endorse.
Nike has LeBron James and Kevin Durant among many, even before that they boasted arguably the greatest player of all-time in Michael Jordan (which eventually morphed into the popular Jordan Brand of today). Adidas today has James Harden, and Under Armour’s biggest brand recognition is undoubtedly Stephen Curry.
Does PUMA now have its first superstar in the making with New York Knicks’ rookie RJ Barrett? Granted its early to make such a bold claim, but the path is right there.
Of course, RJ Barrett would not be the first big-name or star player to sport PUMA in the apparel company’s history. Hall of Famer Walt “Clyde” Frazier was the original endorser of the brand. It just so happens that Frazier is a New York Knicks icon. In a way, Barrett signing with PUMA is a process of coming full circle for the brand.
The newly reinvented apparel company that is looking to venture into the basketball shoe culture has a catalog of young players. Last year’s top two picks DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley are part of the brand. Michael Porter Jr could be in for a breakout season.
But the difference between the three aforementioned young players and RJ Barett is that the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, and Denver Nuggets don’t reside in your stereotypical big markets. Sure, on the court any of those teams (well…maybe slow down on the Suns) are in much better shape on the court in comparison to the Knicks.
But let’s face it, New York is…well…New York. Madison Square Garden is still the “Mecca.” And despite the Brooklyn Nets seemingly ready to take over NYC with their product on the court, there is a reason that the Knicks are still the highest valued NBA franchise. (Forbes)
They still command the market that is the Big Apple. The product on the court may not be doing them any favors, but the Knicks name and brand has been and may always be synonymous with New York. And that is likely why Puma’s global director of brand and marketing iterated, “We’ve had our eyes on him for a long time, going back to before last year.” (ESPN)
Now, as the highest draft pick the New York Knicks and PUMA has seen in a while, RJ Barrett has an opportunity ahead of him. He can be the fulcrum for turning this franchise around. Barrett can spearhead the transition of matching the on-court product with the market surrounding it.
RJ Barrett knows this, PUMA knows this, and that is why they signaled a mutual understanding by signing on the dotted line.