Simply making it to the league is no guarantee of a lucrative sneaker deal. NBA players are discovering it’s harder to score the big contracts that some of their predecessors landed. “The biggest misnomer is that everyone is getting a lot of money and everyone is getting paid,” Octagon agent Alex Saratsis tells Sole Collector. “Now, these shoe companies are very methodical in whom they go after. If they can add an extra million to KD’s compensation or LeBron’s comp over adding a bunch of guys that won’t push product, they will. Very few guys are getting paid good money to endorse shoes.”
Once it comes time to negotiate a new—or first—sneaker deal, agents know what to expect and can set proper expectations with players. Generally speaking, all three companies will come in with similar figures and guys will choose based on either loyalty or product preferences. But sometimes the money simply is higher with one company. Adidas, for example, has started throwing more cash around as they’ve exited the NBA uniform sponsorship in lieu of signing individual contracts. “If one shoe company is offering a contract wildly above market, no matter your loyalty you will go with that shoe company,” Saratsis says. “If you talk about the #1 pick in the draft, they go to the highest bidder.” When you move into the late first-round or second-round guys and the deals dip into $30,000 cash plus $30,000 worth of product, that’s when loyalty or preference falls back in line.
After a decade at adidas shaping the brand’s basketball brand as its sports marketing head, Chris Grancio has made a fairly unprecedented leap to become the chief marketing officer of the newly launched Independent Sports & Entertainment company, one of the top agencies in the agent landscape. Formerly part of the Relativity Sports agency, the new company, headed by longtime industry figures Ron Burkle and Hank Ratner, boasts a client roster of more than 300 athletes in the NBA, NFL and MLB. DeMarcus Cousins, Andrew Bogut, Ricky Rubio, Chandler Parsons and Rodney Hood are among some of the top basketball clients under agent Dan Fegan with the company.
You’ve worked with Ricky Rubio at adidas, and I understand his shoe deal is actually expiring at the end of this month. Are you going to be involved in those negotiations, where you’re now literally sitting on the opposite side of the table, as the saying goes? Grancio: I’m probably a little bit more hands off on that one [laughs]. I was involved on that deal when we signed him, and certainly I’ll be working with the guys on it in my new chair. I’ll be more hands off, to avoid any of those good conflicts of interest to start. That conversation is already well under way, and on the ISE side, we look forward to extending Ricky’s partnership with adidas for the long term.