Michael vs. Larry, Grant Hill drinks Sprite, Michael Phelps and his five-dollar foot-long. Kevin Durant won’t have any of these iconic commercials/brand associations any time soon. In March, Durant signed an endorsement deal with KIND Healthy Snacks, and according to Chris Sheridan, the endorsement deal has strict restrictions. Durant may not sign an endorsement deal with any company that uses sugar or preservatives in its products. That means no McDonalds (or really any fast food or quick service restaurant), no Coca-Cola or Pepsi, no Subway, no candy company, no . . . well a lot of companies that regularly sign athletes to endorsement deals. As Sheridan reported, the deal is unusually restrictive.
It hasn’t stopped Roc Nation from getting Durant other deals. Durant signed with the beverage company Sparkling ICE in July and reportedly has an offer upwards of $265 million from Under Armour. Durant is currently with Nike, which launched a campaign that is juxtaposed to Durant’s KIND marketing campaign of “Be Strong, Be Kind.”
Roc Nation and Durant could be seen ahead of the curve. Together, they recognized that the trend toward healthier living has led to increased marketing budgets for the consumer goods segment. Durant is partnering with health brands as the category is growing, creating a strong brand association that could make him indispensable to his partners.
There is also a trend with Durant that’s hard to ignore. Why be just another endorser in a big brand’s portfolio? Why not be the main attraction and build a brand from the ground up? That’s impossible at McDonalds, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Procter and Gamble, and even Nike. Durant could be showing his desire to be the lead attraction, or at least showing that desire with his newer endorsement deals (he has on-going deals with Sprint, BBVA, Panini, 2K Sports and Skullcandy).
The KIND deal is restrictive, but could also signal a different type of endorsement strategy designed by Kevin Durant and Roc Nation.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.