It was a bizarre Wednesday in collegiate basketball. Nike’s sponsorship of Zion Williamson took an interesting turn during a game featuring he most prospective NBA draft player.
Williamson Nike Shoes Split Apart During a Game
Athletes these days were premier brands of sneakers and apparel. Nobody actually gives it much thought – it’s just the way it is, and athletes are expected to be going around in branded gear.
However, Zion Williamson’s accident on Wednesday showed that while people wouldn’t pay much attention to the upsides of wearing Nike, they would certainly notice if one of the most promising NBA draft players has his shoes split apart in mid-game as happened to Mr. Williamson.
Following the accident, Nike’s (NKE) stock took a 1% tumble on Thursday. Analysts were unanimous that the drop in the shares came following the game between Duke, Mr. Williamson’s own team, and their rivals from North Carolina.
Zion's shoe: destroyed 😳 pic.twitter.com/LqQ2te0Jay
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 21, 2019
The repercussions for Mr. Williamson were a little more serious than needing a shoe replacement, as he walked out of the playfield with a knee injury under a pouting former US President Barack Obama who also attended the game.
Nike hurried to release a statement explaining that the accident was in fact an isolated case:
The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance,” the company said. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.
The company certainly realizes the importance of supplying athletes in the spotlight of hundreds of thousands with the best possible gear as this is one of its key tenets and prerequisite for growth.
Endorsement Deals as Factors for Nike’s Success and Growth
Nike has been fully cognizant of the downsides of negative publicity. In their annual securities filing, the company reiterated that any negativity should be avoided, as the company was already spending a third of its sales ($11.5 billion) on endorsement deals and advertisement.
The company was specifically aware to the fact that social media can quickly turn into a place for free bad press leading to a further downturn in growth opportunities:
Social media, which accelerates and potentially amplifies the scope of negative publicity, can increase the challenges of responding to negative claims.
Nike does provide other top performing athletes with their shoes, including LeBron James and Serena Williams. In the long term, though, the company seems to be focusing on “athleisure footwear”, inviting a casual approach towards exercising.
Williamson is only experiencing a mild knee sprain and he’s expected to make a quick recovery very soon. It’s too early to tell if Puma’s going to try and make a move on Williamson and convince him to switch footwear.
The known facts can be best summed by ESPN announcer Jay Bilas who had the following to say: “A blown shoe and an injured right knee.”