Kawhi Leonard has a lot to celebrate. The Toronto Raptors star set a new NBA record last night, after leading his team to victory against the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the finals series. The 27-year-old L.A. native was named MVP for a second time, but is the only pro baller to claim that title with a team from both conferences.
Throughout the post season, basketball fans have been wowed by Leonard’s dominant performance, which has won him a growing legion of followers. And many of them have taken to the Internet in the last 12 hours in search of the athlete’s signature merchandise from New Balance.
On the brand’s Twitter account, fan and after fan has posted comments, clamoring for product. “Drop a champ pack,” said user @MilkBundy. “Where the championship kicks?! Y’all should’ve dropped them at the buzzer,” posted @Balldinho.
Alas, Leonard’s marquee sneaker styles, the OMN1S and the 997 Sport “2-Way,” which were released on May 7, sold out within a minute and are now going for about four times their retail price on the secondary market, according to StockX.
But New Balance has confirmed with FN that a limited-edition championship pack is in the works. The company said the drop will include a MADE Exclusives 990 silhouette, a MADE Exclusives 997 silhouette and custom T-shirts emblazoned with a new signature Kawhi Leonard tagline. They will release on Newbalance.com at an as-yet-unannounced date.
Boston-based New Balance is also marking the occasion with a new billboard in Toronto featuring the tagline “Board Man Gets Titles” — it references a mantra that the athlete has used since high school (“Board man gets paid”) about the importance of working hard and winning every rebound. The brand also posted the ads online and on social media.
Leonard signed an endorsement deal with New Balance in November after spending years as a Jordan Brand ambassador. The baller is helping the company reenter the basketball market after spending years away from the sport.
Patrick Cassidy, global director of consumer marketing at the brand, said in a statement today, “New Balance Basketball has shared the same vision with Kawhi Leonard since the beginning. Game speaks for itself. His on-court performance and fearlessly independent mindset validates our position as a top global athletic brand.”
Indeed, the Raptors star’s performance this season has certainly helped put the athletic brand on the b-ball map, though experts question whether it will have a significant impact on revenue. “We have never seen a direct impact to sales due to performance on the court,” said Matt Powell, senior industry adviser for sports at The NPD Group Inc. “This win is much more of brand building event.”
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