An endorsement deal with Nike, Under Armour or Adidas is not in the cards for Lonzo Ball. Ball’s father LaVar confirmed that the three shoe and apparel companies informed him that they were not interested in doing a deal with his son. Sources with the three companies told ESPN.com that they indeed were moving on.
Now that the traditional shoe companies are out, Ball said he will reach out to the Chinese brands, which include Peak, Li-Ning and Anta, and he’s not counting out taking on an entrepreneurial partner outside the business.
Never in the history of modern day shoe endorsements have the big companies all stepped away from a potential top pick nearly two months before the NBA draft. But the proposition that LaVar, who has been representing Lonzo on the deal, was offering also has no precedence.
In his meetings with the three, LaVar insisted that the company license his upstart Big Baller Brand from him. He also showed the companies a shoe prototype that he hoped would be Lonzo’s first shoe. “We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”
Ball would not disclose how big the Big Baller Brand has become — the company sells hats and t-shirts ranging from $38 to $100 on its website — but he said that current sales numbers shouldn’t have been on the mind of the shoe companies. “When Facebook bought Whatsapp for $19 billion, those guys weren’t profitable,” LaVar said.
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank admitted Thursday that sales for Stephen Curry’s current signature basketball shoe have been disappointing. “Our success in basketball hasn’t been without its learning,” Plank said on the company’s earnings call, during which Under Armour reported its first quarterly loss as a public company. “As we launched the Curry 3 late last year, our expectations continued to run high. And while the 3 played very well on court for Stephen Curry and our athletes, a sluggish signature market and a warm consumer reception led to softer-than-expected results.
The less-than-enthusiastic reception to the Curry 3 has resulted in several retailers discounting it. To get rid of those that haven’t sold, Under Armour has discounted the Curry 3 by almost 30 percent to $99.99. In November, Under Armour lost nearly $600 million of its value as a company after Foot Locker CEO Dick Johnson said the Curry 3 “started off a bit slower than the previous models.”