Adidas made a major move to combat its dwindling NBA presence, coming to agreement with Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard on an extension of his endorsement deal that could pay him $100 million over 10 years.
Lillard, the Blazers’ first round pick (sixth overall) in 2012 and NBA Rookie of the Year, averaged just under 20 points and six assists per game in his first two seasons, leading Portland this year to its first playoff berth since 2011.
Adidas has sponsorship deals with Dwight Howard, Serge Ibaka and most notably Derrick Rose (who signed a record 13-year deal in 2012). But devastating injuries to Rose combined with Howard’s decline in popularity during his season with the Lakers drastically hurt Adidas’ shoe sales.
According to market tracking firm SportsOneSource, Adidas only held a 5.5 percent share in basketball shoe sales in 2013. Adidas is also expected to be actively pursuing deals in this year’s draft class, regarded as one of the deepest in years.
Since his breakout rookie season, Lillard has put himself at the forefront of the NBA’s public anti-bullying campaign, and appeared in every all-star weekend event in 2014, establishing himself as one of the league’s most visible and likable stars, despite not playing in a big market.
Lillard, who signed his original deal with Adidas as a rookie, had an opt-out clause in his contract coming up, which would have opened up a bidding war for his endorsement, something Adidas had no interest in letting happen:
“Damian has proven to be not only an amazing basketball player, but a great partner, member of the community and someone who creates excitement for our products. . . His leadership and commitment to success on the court and his ability to interact and relate to fans through social media and the community make him the perfect fit to be one of the cornerstones of the Adidas brand.”
Lillard’s deal reportedly makes him the third-highest paid endorser in the NBA, behind only fellow Adidas endorser Rose and LeBron James, who rakes in about $20 million a year from Nike. Lillard’s monumental rise in popularity has industry leaders confident he can make an impact far outside the Portland market and make this deal worthwhile for Adidas.
Questions remain however, on whether the deal alone makes Adidas competitive with Nike, and whether it will set a precedent for future NBA stars, making them more expensive to sign. One thing that is certain, however: If Lillard continues being a positive, compelling star on and off the court, Adidas will be happy with the investment.