The most marketable NBA players are typically guards. Players with the ball in their hands — explosive attackers with an endless flair to their game. As kids look up to and spend endless hours in front-yard hoops emulating their every move, brands are left constantly looking for the next great athletes who can translate into equally great endorsers.
Dennis Smith Jr. checks all of those boxes, leading Under Armour to sign the Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard and No. 9 overall 2017 draft pick to a three-year footwear and apparel endorsement deal worth as much as $2 million per year with incentives, according to sources. The brand plans to incorporate him immediately as one of its key featured basketball players right out the gate.
“I am definitely excited to be a part of team Under Armour as I get ready to go into [training] camp for my rookie year,” Smith Jr. said. “Under Armour is an explosive brand in basketball right now, and I’m excited to join Stephen [Curry] and Seth [Curry] and the team at UA in making our mark together.”
Unlike most incoming rookies this summer, Smith decided to wait until well after the NBA draft to sign his sneaker deal. The majority of the players selected among the top 10 picks — save for Lonzo Ball‘s unique Big Baller Brand venture — each signed their endorsement deals during the month of June.
As often happens throughout the industry, given that there are millions of dollars potentially on the line and marketing commitments to be made, brands will do their research on not just a player’s ability on the floor, but his or her character, demeanor and personality off it. In Smith’s case, one of his new teammates, Under Armour endorser Seth Curry, vouched for him after they got to know each other at the Mavericks practice facility earlier in the summer.
“Seth was able to spend some time with him, and Seth was telling me how good of a person he is,” Stone said. “Coming from Seth, and understanding what the Curry family is all about, that really resonated with us.”
As Dennis Smith Jr. prepares to embark on his rookie season, he’ll be among a few select players leading the new Drive 4 team shoe. During Summer League, Smith wore the sneaker in a custom-made edition inspired by some of his favorite TV shows of the ’90s. Under Armour just so happens to have one of their flagship “Brand House” stores in Dallas, where they’ll look to feature Smith in both in-store marketing, as well as launch exclusive products.
More than anything, the two are looking to build on their underdog mindset together as Under Armour continues to find its way in the footwear business and Smith looks to make his mark in the league.
“If you look at all the other brands we’re competing with, we’re not even a quarter of their size and we’re the underdog. Dennis was overlooked in the draft. We’re both still trying to climb a mountain,” Stone said. “He has a lot of hunger to be on top. Hopefully, we can really partner with him and not just have some transactional relationship. We’re looking to have a real partnership with him and help him get to those places that he wants to go.”
Article source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/20279612/nba-dallas-mavericks-rookie-dennis-smith-jr-signs-armour-deal