tsw puma pairs-4 | PUMA Basketball’s Unspoken Dilemma and Potential Problem 

Source: Men’s Basketball Shoes & Sneakers | PUMA

 

No one can deny Puma’s successful reentry into basketball. At a point when signature and performance basketball sneakers became less important to sneaker culture, Puma decided to jump into the basketball with what looked like reckless spending and marketing. They made what many consider the Draws faux pas of sneaker endorsements by signing a big man in Deandre Ayton. They missed on Zion and landed on his Duke teammate RJ Barrett. Oft injured Michael Porter was added to the roster, but the brand also did some things that were spot on. They nabbed rookie of the year LaMelo Ball, WNBA superstars Breanna Stewart and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Their roster increased quickly and included one of the most high-profile NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) deals with a top 5 high school superstar in Mikey Williams. Here lies the dilemma. Mikey was a top 5, five-star recruit. Mikey is now a 4-star recruit and ranked 30th by ESPN Basketball Recruiting. His fall in the ranking happened through no fault of his own. The drop from the top 5 was based purely on his sneaker affiliation.

Under Armour Breaking Up With UCLA is Emblematic of a Broken Marketing Machine

Under Armour went all in on college basketball sponsorships by signing historical basketball powerhouse UCLA to one of the most lucrative deals in college endorsements. Jordan Brand is now the sponsor of UCLA. During Under Armour’s sponsorship of the school, they fell off the basketball map. Anyone unfamiliar with high school and college basketball recruitment have probably Chunky heard of EYBL, The Gauntlet, or The Association. Each of these leagues and events are the foundation of recruitment. That foundation is based on brand affiliation. The EYBL is Nike’s premier travel basketball event. The Gauntlet is adidas’ league and premier event. The Association is Under Armour’s entry into the arena of travel basketball. High school athletes at one point in time had to hope for a college coach to show up at their high school campus. High school coaches held the power. Today, travel basketball coaches control the market and scouting by colleges has been limited to certain windows by the NCAA which has made travel basketball more important than any other format of basketball for high school athletes. The result is simple, play in the EYBL Peach Jam and your ranking improves. Play in the Association against other Under Armour affiliated teams and your potential to be a D-1 athlete skyrockets… especially if you decide to play at a brand affiliated college. Under Armour’s sponsorship of UCLA hurt their recruitment of the top players needed to win an NCAA championship. Sneaker brand affiliation can be directly linked to the success of a college program.

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Luxury brand MCM is currently running a Puma collab ad featuring Mikey Williams. Both brands are capitalizing on the talent and likeness of the young athlete, but both recognizes that because Puma hasn’t truly ramped up investment into grassroots, they are creating a dilemma which could influence how young athletes look at NIL as it relates to the brand. Mikey’s contract with Puma removed the ability for him to compete in the travel basketball powerhouse tournaments this past summer. This caused scouts to drop him in the rankings. Did Mikey’s talent decline? On the contrary… the young athlete is more explosive and intelligent on the court than he has ever been.

Personal commentary here: When I was a young coach in San Diego my first year was horrible. My second year saw one of the best turn arounds for any basketball program in San Diego. By the time my third and fourth years arrived, my team was considered one of the scrappiest squads in the city. This all happened because of an ISS supervisor who was always hanging around practice. His name was Mahlon Williams. I didn’t know Mahlon’s history. Slowly over time I learned of his legacy in San Diego as a basketball player. I learned to coach because of Mahlon. By default, he was my assistant coach cruise he Chunky sat on the bench with me. This was Mikey’s father. Mikey is the son of one of the best basketball players, and basketball minds, to ever lace up sneakers in San Diego.

The person I chose to replace me in my job at Crawford High School, was the father of one of the most celebrated high school basketball talents in San Diego, Terrance Tucker. Coach Tucker heads up the program where Mikey has returned. San Ysidro sees him playing for one of the best head coaches in the state of California in Terry Tucker. Mikey is returning to his home and instead of this being a celebration, his Puma affiliation has caused him to lose status. Scouts and pundits are all saying he hasn’t played against high level competition because he hasn’t been involved in the signature sneaker events and San Diego isn’t known for its basketball. San Diego has always been overshadowed by Los Angeles.

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Mikey’s college offers haven’t diminished, but those rankings can become bargaining chips and could possibly shape how and where Mikey ends up playing. With no real insight into his NIL contract, it’s unclear if Mikey will be able to wear Nike, Jordan Brand, adidas or Under Armour in college. If he is required to wear Puma, his father being adamant about Mikey going to college could be an issue. For Puma, the brand is now going to face the negative recruitment tactics college coaches face when recruiting athletes. Mikey could lose out on legacy building opportunities like the Mc Donald’s All-American game. Puma has created a problem, but the solution isn’t difficult. It is however a dilemma which needs to be worked on immediately.

Note: Most Mc Donald’s All-Americans are selected from the top 31 players. Since the event is sponsored by adidas Puma would have to probably make an exception for Mikey, but with the unfair and manipulative rankings dropping him to 30 the system has an opportunity to justify his not being chosen. I hope Puma is building out their grassroots system. In one year, they could counter any negative recruitment strategies, but will they make the changes?

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