Nike and Under Armour outfit the best players in basketball, including four of the highest profile stars playing in the 2017 NBA Finals. But it’s unlikely the brands will benefit at all from having athlete endorsers on the court on the sport’s biggest stage.
Overall basketball sneaker sales, according to data provided by The NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service, are down significantly. In the 12 months ending April 2017, footwear for the sport was down 22 percent.
And Matt Powell, VP and sports industry analyst for The NPD Group, confirmed that performance basketball sneaker sales as of April 2017 have declined nearly 25 percent this year alone.
Powell doesn’t believe an event as monumental as the NBA Finals, or a championship win for one of the game’s best athletes, could change basketball footwear’s downward sales spiral.
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“There’s really not a one-to-one correlation between performance on the court and shoe sales. If we go back to last year at this time, [Under Armour] Curry sales were on fire, the Warriors lost, and it didn’t matter. LeBron [James] won and [Nike] LeBron sales stayed soft,” Powell explained to Footwear News.
But the brands aren’t passing on this potential opportunity to reinvigorate the basketball category.
Under Armour Curry 3Zer0, $119.99; ua.com
Under Armour introduced a new style for Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors prior to the 2017 NBA Playoffs, the Curry 3Zer0. The shoe differs from the signature look he wore throughout the regular season, the Curry 3.
The introduction of a Curry signature subseries started last season ahead of the 2016 NBA Playoffs with the release of the Curry 2.5.
The signature subseries model isn’t foreign to basketball, and didn’t begin with Curry and Under Armour. Nike releases its update to the Zoom LeBron Soldier franchise, which now features its 11th style, when NBA Playoff time comes around.
Nike Zoom LeBron Soldier 11 “Prototype,” $140; nike.com
Despite basketball sneaker sale struggles, Powell applauded Under Armour for attempting to give a reason for shoppers to spend money, as well as rival what Nike is doing with James’ shoes.
“Nike has been able to extend the LeBron sales with the Zoom Soldier, and we’ve seen [Kevin] Durant sales extend with the [Nike] Trey5. To me, this [Curry 3Zer0] is a logical play,” Powell said.
Powell also believes how the NBA Finals could help improve basketball sneaker sales — albeit a slight improvement — is to offer championship-inspired customization options immediately following the series.
Aside from Curry, James and Durant’s signature shoes, one other athlete aligned with Under Armour or Nike has a signature shoe: Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving plays in the Nike Kyrie 3.
Nike Kyrie 3, $120; nike.com
Nike Zoom KD 9 Elite, $150; nike.com