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The Curious Sport Shoe Case of James Harden

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Harden $200M Adidas Offer:

Last week Trey Oursler reported on the breaking news that James Harden was being wooed to leave the Michael Jordan Nike brand to join forces with Adidas. The offer is a lucrative $200 million dollar contract for a term of 13 years.

James Harden has reportedly been offered a $200M contract by Adidas: http://t.co/5UqrbjWfgm pic.twitter.com/HZKaslDyDK

— ESPN (@espn) August 3, 2015

This isn’t the first time an offer of this magnitude has occurred especially with brands who don’t hold the same market position as the preeminent top brand: Nike. If you’re old enough to remember it was the partnership of Nike and Michael Jordan which helped propel Nike atop market sales for the sport shoe brand.

Their joint venture is unprecedented in the sports marketing world with Jordan as synonymous to the brand as the Swoosh is.  Subsequent stars were always looking to be courted by Nike and usually the top athletes have chosen their shoe. The current players topping the endorsement charts are LeBron James and  Kevin Durant who both wear Nike shoes.

Sports shoes are big business, case in point when Under Armour tried to lure Durant away Nike countered their deal negotiating a 10-year extension said to be worth up to $300M and reportedly includes a $50M retirement package  as per Bleacher Report Matt Fitzgerald’s article.

If James Harden secures $200 million deal with adidas, he will be 1 of top 5 highest endorsed @NBA players in 2015. pic.twitter.com/Bl3GUVdlbA

— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) August 3, 2015

The two main competitors chasing Nike for the coveted top brand share are Adidas and Under Armour. When Nike let this years MVP slip away to Under Armour for just under $4M a year (Nike offered $2.5M/year) there was an immediate impact for Under Armour who gained market share.  In fact this year Under Armour surpassed Adidas into second place and it was felt this move was directly attributable to sales of Curry’s shoe.

It appears Adidas is looking to emulate what Under Armour achieved with Curry via this signing of Harden. Adidas already lost Harden’s team mate Dwight Howard this year  when he left reportedly to join a Chinese brand Peak.

An article in Fortune by Daniel Roberts and Analee Kasudia highlights Adidas fall in the market specifically pointing to the NBA as playing a key factor:

But it will take great strides to compete again with Nike. Take basketball as one example: in 2014, Nike sold $340 million worth of LeBron James signature sneakers; Adidas sold $32 million of its Derrick Rose shoes. (Rose, who plays for the Chicago Bulls, is Adidas’s biggest basketball endorser, but he has been plagued with injuries and missed nearly two full seasons in the last four.) Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Chris Paul’s signature shoes all sold more than Rose’s shoes last year—all three of them are Nike or Jordan Brand (owned by Nike) athletes. – Fortune

Currently with Adidas are  Derrick Rose, John Wall, Damian Lillard and All-Star rookie Andrew Wiggins. Other than Wiggins who has potential to grow into a major star and provides the added bonus of being Canadian Harden represents a star athlete who could propel Adidas back to prominence.

With NBA athletes earning millions of dollars these endorsements are icing on the cake, albeit sweet icing. Certainly Harden’s performance this season was key to pushing him up the ranks of coveted NBA stars being courted to endorse their products, but he also brings a strong relationship with fans to the table. It definitely doesn’t hurt his beard has made him even more recognizable for those casual fans of the NBA which pushes him ahead of other stars.

James Harden Is Getting A $200 Million Deal That His Bae Khloe Kardashian Totally Approves: TMZ reports that Nike… http://t.co/Q2RGcXreFA

— Wakeup Port Harcourt (@WakeUpPHCity) August 11, 2015

Though Harden has yet to confirm the deal the sighting of his girlfriend Khloe Kardashian sporting a red jacket with an Adidas logo on the back seemed to indicate he was leaning in that direction. Further, the fact Nike is saying they can’t afford to commit those types of dollars to a single athlete when they have numerous other stars to budget for seems to indicate the “Beard” will be sporting three stripes as opposed to a swoosh shortly.

Harden's still wearing Nike at USA mini-camp http://t.co/SkQfu5oYAJ pic.twitter.com/AktoiVcKxy

— SneakerNews.com (@SneakerNews) August 12, 2015

Then again, if we go by the most current news, Harden has been spotted at the Team USA training camp this week sporting…. Nike shoes. Which get me to pose the rather obvious question: at the end of the day, do athletes pick shoes they’re comfortable in over money? I guess we’ll know the answer to that question when Harden makes his final choice.

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Next: Central Division Off Season Update

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