College standout-turned-pro baller Markelle Fultz has had a monumental week. The former Washington Huskies guard went No. 1 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft and was one of seven rookies to land an endorsement deal with Nike.
But now he has to live up to the hype built around him, not only for his new team but also for the Swoosh.
The developing Fultz craze, paired with the millions of eyes of basketball fans worldwide that will be on him, makes the decision for what sneaker he wears on the court all the more important. Industry insiders believe Nike would be best served if he sported the new HyperDunk model on the court, which boasts its newest cushioning tech, React.
“You want your players to showcase your newest technologies. I think that becomes his opportunity,” explained Matt Powell, VP and sports industry analyst with The NPD Group. “You want your best athletes performing at a high level wearing your newest products, so it would be logical to showcase React with him.”
The Nike React HyperDunk 2017, which the brand unveiled at a media event in New York City on Tuesday, arrives in stores Aug. 3.
But Fultz, according to Powell, isn’t the only Nike newcomer that should be in the newest addition to the HyperDunk franchise. In order to boost its basketball business, he believes all seven rookies should be in the shoe.
Powell also stated Nike’s signing of several players ahead of the NBA Draft rather than focus on one or two stars, and announcing the deals with the athletes, is a move to improve the struggling category.
“I think they’re trying to resuscitate a very sick basketball business right now,” Powell said. “I think they’re hoping they catch lightening in a bottle with one of these kids. No one really knows how these players are going to perform until they make it to the league, so Nike is hedging their bet with a bunch of players.”
According to data provided by The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service, basketball footwear sales in the U.S. are down 22 percent for the year ending in 2017, not only for Nike but for all brands in the marketplace.
Although Powell believes Nike should have the ballers, specifically Fultz, lace up the HyperDunk, he doesn’t think the immediate benefit of Fultz’s on-court endorsement of the shoe is sales.
“People are going to be watching him because he’s the No. 1 pick and is going to a team where he’s going to help immediately, so he is going to get a lot of attention. But I don’t expect him to generate tremendous amount of footwear sales out of this,” said Powell.