In a college basketball match last week one of the star players, Zion Williams, shoe ripped off of his foot. Causing him to slide to the ground and gain a knee injury. This PR nightmare has the ability to cause real issues for Nike sponsorship of new players in the NBA drafts this summer. But what does all this mean?
Who is Zion Williamson?
Williamson is an up and coming basketball star who currently plays college basketball for the Duke Blue Devils. If you, like me, aren’t a hub of knowledge for American college sports, here is all you need to know.
The Duke Blue Devils are the men’s basketball team that represents Duke University in the NCAA Division I, which is comprised of the highest level of college athletes. All these players are set on a path to play professionally in the NBA.
At 18 years old, Zion Williamson is set to be the NBA’s first pick for the National Basketball Association draft this summer. Standing at an impressive 6’ 7” and weighing 280 pounds, Williamson plays in the small forward and power forward positions.
Not only does Williamson shine on the court, but he has also been awarded many achievements. He was ranked in the top 5 players in 2018, he and his team have won three straight state championships, won South Carolina’s Mr Basketball, McDonald’s All-American and runner-up Mr Basketball USA.
Nikes Sponsorship Deal with Duke
The sponsorship deal between Nike and the Duke Blue Devils has been around since 1992. Their last contract came to an end in 2015, however, after a discussion between the two sides the contract was expanded for at least another 12 years.
Nikes side of the deal is to provide the Blue Devils with their uniforms, footwear, equipment and merchandise through to 2027, however, no much more of their deal has been released to the public.
Duke has always been in the highest college basketball league and has won many championships, including 2001, 2010 and 2015. This is great promotional for Nike, but what if something goes wrong…
The Shoe Explosion
Duke vs North Carolina game on Thursday 21st Feb was an important match for the team. Williamson is their star player, therefore everyone was looking to him and teammate Barrett to push them through.
30 seconds into the game, Williamson has the ball and is pushes past players to the net. He tries to turn around the defence and as he pushes with his left foot and slides down to the floor. Luckily for us, not so much for Nike, the cameras were zoomed in on Zion at the time so we can see exactly what happens. Take a look;
The top of the shoe completely comes apart from the sole, causing Williamson to slide out of the side and twist his knee in the process.
A former Nike engineer has explained what he thinks happened, ““It’s hard to tell without seeing the shoe. I don’t even think I’ve seen a PG 2.5,” Beers told Complex. “I would say it’s a little more of a freak accident than an inherent issue with the shoe. If it was an inherent issue, you probably wouldn’t just see it on him. You would probably already see it happening in other areas. This is a very rare incident.”
Nike also released a statement saying that they are “working to identify the issue”.
As a sponsor, this is a form of nightmare. To have one of your best resources lost trust in your products and for his fans to see such a malfunction and also lost faith. Nike did, in fact, see an impact on their sales, however, as it is such a huge brand little can take away from the image they have portrayed for themselves.
Nikes sales dipped a tiny 1.8 per cent after the incident, simply to bounce back. Their trainer sales actually increased by 8 per cent the very next day!
The biggest possible harm this could have for Nike is in the future. With Williamson soon to be joining the NBA, he will be able to choose his own sponsors. He is on the top of a lot of sports retailers list for the summer as a highly sort over a sponsorship deal. Nike will now have a much more difficult time convincing Williamson to stay with them as well as giving other brands ammunition to use to sway him away from Nike.
Due to Williamson’s injury from the incident, it is highly likely he would put his trust in their shoes again. He will have to continue to wear Nike at Duke due to their deal, therefore Nike will have to work hard to regain the trust in their products.
For most sponsors, this would be an absolute PR nightmare, but this isn’t even the first time this has happened to Nike. Many of their trainers have fallen apart on the court (which you may have seen on the youtube video above). However, Nike has built up an incredible reputation over the years, meaning little effects them now. For anyone who experiences a fault in their products for endorsers, be careful. The main part of sponsorship and endorsements is for them to have faith in your product. Not every company can be like Nike…