Wondering who the biggest winner is following the anticipated Kevin Love trade to Cleveland? Beyond the city of Cleveland and its fans, little known Chinese shoe maker, 361 degrees, is poised to walk all over the competition.
Since signing Love in 2011, 361 degrees has toiled in relative anonymity, partly due to their main endorser, Love, being stuck on the Minnesota Timberwolves, a losing team with little to no national brand strength. Going into the 2012 and 2013 seasons, the Timberwolves were scheduled to appear on national TV (ESPN, ABC, TNT) five times. By comparison, LeBron James’ Miami Heat team was scheduled to appear 25 times each year, not including the NBA playoffs. With LeBron’s arrival already solidifying the Cavalier’s Christmas Day game spot, it’s pretty apparent that Love and 361 degrees will be receiving much more national exposure than they did while he was in Minnesota.
Assuming the endorsement contract and increased coverage doesn’t trigger additional expenses, 361 can capitalize on this increased visibility in numerous ways. Beyond the gains from Love just appearing in 361’s shoes while playing for Cleveland, the company can also reach a broader audience through marketing campaigns that ride the coattails of the success that generally follows the league’s top player, James. TV commercials, Youtube videos, social media blitzes, and experiential events all tailored toward celebrating this newly formed Big Three (Love, LeBron, and Kyrie Irving) offer an opportunity for the little known company to heighten its brand awareness with NBA stakeholders.
361 degrees is one of five Chinese shoe companies that have secured endorsement deals with NBA athletes. With the exception of Qiaodan, the others, Peak (Tony Parker), Li-Ning (Dwyane Wade), Anta (Kevin Garnett), have experienced the benefits of association with a championship-level athlete. If Love and the Cavaliers experience the success everyone is projecting, 361 degrees can look toward its fellow Chinese shoe companies’ experiences to fully maximize this newfound opportunity.
Courtney Brunious is Associate Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Managing Editor of The Fields of Green.