In the world of sneaker endorsements, often times everything can come down to timing. Was LeBron James worth $90 Million as an 18 year-old to Nike? His newest endorsement deal is rumored to "only" be worth closer to just $50 Million over the same amount of years. While the upfront money he was given may not have entirely paid off for Nike, who during the spring of 2003 had a roster featuring an aging cast of 90's stars and no clear-cut posterboy for Nike Basketball outside of Vince Carter, the decision to bet everything on LeBron was probably the right long-term move. [And signing Kobe Bryant a few months later eventually worked out too.] Sometimes it's not only about how much a player can do for your brand, but also how much it's worth for that player not to go to a competitor. If LeBron had signed with Reebok, as was expected, he'd have gotten a $10 Million check on the spot, and who knows how the past seven years may have shaped up.
Perhaps the most sought after rookie since LeBron is of course Kentucky's explosive point guard and soon-to-be #1 pick John Wall. While several important decisions in his life are already falling into place, and he's probably condo hunting already in DC,� he's still got his sneaker contract to sort out, and once again, timing will be a most important factor. Under Armour was heavily interested in Wall, with the hopes of pairing he and Brandon Jennings as faces of the brand and positioning itself as the company for speed and quickness in hoops, but it looks as though Wall's options have come down to Nike and Reebok. It was Under Armour that signed Jennings to a deal worth "just" $2 Million over four years, and it's looking like Wall has priced himself far out of their budget, with Reebok offering close to $4 Million per year, and Nike not balking at the price. Wall was in Canton, Massachusetts on Friday to meet with Reebok executives, and he's now mulling over pitches from both companies. I think he should sign with Reebok. Truthfully, it's not even close. If John Wall was a class of 2009 rookie, Reebok couldn't afford him or properly utilize him, and wouldn't be anywhere near this discussion. He'd sign with Nike and likely have a few House Of Hoops drops sprinkled throughout the year. It'd be a formulaic relationship and not a given that Wall would be positioned all that highly within the Nike Basketball umbrella of athletes. LeBron, Kobe and KD have all rightfully earned their ranks in the group, but a fourth signature shoe in the market might not make sense. For Reebok, everything has come down to timing once again, and much like the 1996 signing of Allen Iverson that pushed Reebok Basketball to unforseen heights, it's beginning to feel like the time is right for John Wall to strongly consider Reebok. We saw Iverson literally carry the entire brand into the new millennium, with five awesome shoes to start off his line, and more importantly, he helped usher in Reebok's biggest innovation of the decade in DMX. For John Wall, he'll have that exact same opportunity and that exact same importance to the category. John Wall will be the face of Reebok Basketball and their upcoming ZigTech push. That alone, no matter how many more dollars Reebok throws at him, should be in itself a pretty damn good pitch. Something that Nike can't likely commit to. While the cons of signing with Reebok, as Zac pointed out, are perhaps their lack of any great campaigns in basketball as of late, the company has definitely turned the corner in 2010 and has proven they can get behind an initiative, taking up a tremendously impressive 40% market share in Women's with their Easy Tone series, and breaking into Men's with the 11th best selling sneaker of April with the Zig Pulse. Besides, their product advertising strategy has been straightforward and direct, simply telling you that ZigTech offers less pain and more comfort while training. They might not need a complex strategy or Mars Blackmon level campaign, as we've seen their light and fun approach has been rather effective, and the masses have taken to their "energy drink for your feet" positioning. John Wall has certainly seen the publicity and visibility that both Chad OchoCinco and Sidney Crosby have received over recent months, and it's a guarantee that he'll be the face of basketball, in much the same way they're representing football and hockey. There's been talk that he'd become the first Team LeBron athlete at Nike, perhaps leading the Soldier line during the regular season, as the strategy for LeBron will be to continue with his signature shoe for 82 games, and a re-tooled PS version for the playoffs. That all sounded pretty good in theory, and it was even rumored that Wall would sign with LeBron's LRMR "marketing company." Surely you can draw an easy conclusion as to why James was seen at a few Kentucky games during the season, why he's forged a good relationship with John Calipari and why the forces behind the scenes began the connecting points. In a shock to everyone paying attention, John Wall signed with Dan Fegan instead, a tremendously successful, proven and well respected agent, and in turn, Wall's decision may help in swaying him to Reebok. While some agents have a history of repeatedly sending clients to brands, like longtime NBA agent Arn Tellem, who has represented dozens of Adidas athletes, including Derrick Rose and Tracy McGrady, Fegan's track record with footwear companies has been more inclusive. If LRMR were in the picture, Wall to Nike would be a given. Such is not the case anymore with Wall's signing of Fegan. While it very well may come down to simple dollar amounts, John Wall should consider more than just money, and sign with Reebok because of the potential for growth with the company, and for the opportunity to be a true franchise player at Reebok for the next decade, and not just one of several dozen athletes in Nike Basketball, where he could get lost in the shuffle later on in his career. Iverson is done with the brand. The fact that they never even began to work on a 14th signature shoe should tell you all you need to know.� With no plans ahead for Iverson, Wall can lead the category back to prominence. As it stands, the Reebok Zig Slash basketball shoe is unimaginably hideous. They'll absolutely have to offer Wall a different shoe if they hope to translate his endorsement deal into actual sales, but the possibility of uplifting a once successful brand is entirely realistic. John Wall will be the future of Reebok, and that's as enticing as it gets.