Zappos is writing an entirely new playbook for athlete sponsorships.
The shoe and apparel e-retailer has defied tradition by signing an endorsement deal with 2016 NFL prospect Ronnie Stanley. While many seasoned pros are tied to one brand, the rising sports star now has access to the digital merchant’s inventory of more than 1,000 labels.
For Zappos and Stanley, the alignment is a touchdown.
“We can do co-branding with brands — Ronnie being a face to everyday athletes, but also in the fashion world, he can be a face for that, too,” Zappos general manager-footwear/accessories/6pm.com Jeff Esperson tells Footwear News.
Stanley has endorsed six looks on Zappos’ website, presenting himself as a sportsman who has a robust lifestyle off the field. Some of the selections include Timberland Classic six-inch Premium boots, Levi’s jeans, a Tommy Bahama shawl and some athleisure wear.
— Rico Suavee (@ronnie_stanley) April 6, 2016
In a previous interview, the former Notre Dame offensive tackle said that after he signs with a team following the NFL Draft (April 28-30), he would likely have to lace up in Nike, Adidas or Under Armour, which have deals with the league, while playing.
Esperson says that Zappos is strategizing on how to creatively use its first athlete ambassador.
“We understand all of the restrictions around the NFL, and there are quite a few; some are fine,” Esperson says. “Where can we take some of those advantages is off the field.”
Some of the labels carried by the e-vendor have already expressed interest in seeing their products on Stanley.
“We are trying to be very thoughtful,” Esperson explains. “I’ve gotten several calls.” He adds that “most of them are vendors,” but other manufacturers are courting a partnership, too.
As an ambassador for Zappos, Stanley’s role is expected to grow along with his public profile.
“We will hopefully get him to do some blogging and collaborations,” Esperson says. “For the most part — where could this be headed — we’re not quite sure yet, but it’s going to be positive.”
Las Vegas-based Zappos also sees value in Stanley having been born and raised in the same area as its headquarters.
“He’s going to give back to the local community,” Esperson says. “We’re connected in Vegas. We didn’t do this to look for sales — we did this because it’s a good fit for us — especially for the community and giving back.”
Esperson credits Roc Nation Sports for facilitating a partnership with Stanley.
“We weren’t out looking for it,” he says of the deal, adding that the sports management company also presented other advantageous opportunities to align with athletes. “At this time we are focused on [Stanley] right now, but we might have a few things on the back burner later on.”