Zion Williamson hasn’t been drafted by an NBA team yet but a sneaker industry insider believes the promising prospect has already made a mistake that could cost him major money.
“The shoe deal is the easiest thing in the world to do, it should have been done,” famed sports marketing exec Sonny Vaccaro told FN. Prior to the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday, Williamson did not sign a deal with a shoe company. And the baller is still a sneaker free agent.
New Orleans secured the No. 1 overall pick for the upcoming 2019 NBA Draft, which will take place on June 20, and the 6-foot-7, 284-pound athlete is widely regarded as the player the team will take. Vaccaro believes going to a small market versus a major one such as New York or Los Angeles could have an adverse impact on shoe deal negotiations. (The Knicks and Lakers had a 14% and 2% shot and landing Williamson, respectively.)
“He’s [likely] going to a place that’s going to be hard to maximize everything,” Vaccaro said. “The onus should have been on the buyers and now it’s on the seller. They’re still going to get a lot of money but if I’m a shoe company I’m not the beggar now, you put [Williamson] back on his heels, which wouldn’t have happened if a deal got done beforehand.”
He continued, “For the kids’ sake financially you hope he doesn’t go to the Pelicans or even the Memphis Grizzlies because there is not an inbred society in those cities that are going to add on to the endorsements. You could go to N.Y. and get 10 endorsements with major money from business within the city of N.Y. There is no money in Louisiana to go out and buy a billboard for Zion or any other person.”
The NPD Group Inc.’s senior sports industry analyst Matt Powell agrees.
“Going to a small market team hurts his marketability. N.Y. would have lined up beautifully for him because it’s the epicenter of basketball culture,” Powell said.
Although no deal is in place, Vaccaro has an idea of where Williamson could land.
“A chance may or may not have passed with a Chinese company, Anta, getting involved — I think they still may be involved because I talked to them,” Vacarro told FN. “But I think it’s a two-man race, there’s two companies with ulterior motives at the money it’s going to cost. No. 1 doesn’t want No. 2 to gain on them, and that’s Nike and Adidas.”
He continued, “When I was advising the family, I thought the key would be to get a foreign company involved, not another American company, because I don’t think an American company can step up to the plate with a number that’s going to happen. But if you had a foreign entity with a lot of money, and Anta has a lot of money, it would make things interesting.”
Williamson wore Nike on the court during his lone college basketball season at Duke. However, the baller was spotted wearing Adidas head-to-toe during the season via Instagram Stories on his personal account. He has also worn Under Armour during the company’s Elite 24 game in August 2016.
While at Duke, Williamson was given the 2019 Wooden Award, an honor bestowed upon the best player every year, and made headlines in February when his Nike PG 2.5 sneaker split on the court against the rival North Carolina Tar Heels.
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