Business

Steph Curry ‘smoking hot’ for sponsorships

Scott Woodmansee, left, and his wife, Priscilla, right, look over the Steph Curry items available for sale at the Davidson College Store on Friday, June 12, 2015.
Scott Woodmansee, left, and his wife, Priscilla, right, look over the Steph Curry items available for sale at the Davidson College Store on Friday, June 12, 2015. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The only shoe the teenage boy wanted to play basketball in was Stephen Curry’s “Curry One.” But when he got to SouthPark Mall’s Foot Locker in May, his size, 14, had sold out, Sales Associate Alexandra Politis recalled.

Across the country, merchandise with the golden 30 is selling briskly as the Charlotte-grown MVP chases a championship title, with his Golden State Warriors tied at 2-2 with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the best-of-7 NBA finals.

Curry’s mounting popularity is expected to pump the rising star’s annual sponsorship income to tens of millions of dollars in a few years, experts say, but he has to be careful about choosing the brands he backs.

As a potential endorser, Curry is “smoking hot right now,” said Marc Ganis, president and founder of Sports Corp., a Chicago-based sports business consulting firm. “He has become, to many, the most exciting player to follow in the NBA.”

Curry recently scored deals with Degree, Express, State Farm, Muscle Milk, JBL and Under Armour, which rolled out “Curry One” in February, ESPN reported. Forbes estimated Curry’s sponsorship income this year at $5.5 million.

Part of the excitement comes from Curry’s relatability to everyday people, Ganis said. The 6-foot-3 guard doesn’t look like those chiseled-out-of-granite players. Besides, who wouldn’t love a husband and father who was patient enough to allow his 2-year-old daughter to upstage him at a postgame news conference? That video has received almost 4 million views on YouTube.

Whether the Warriors win this year or not, Curry has already been elevated to the elite player level – somewhere close to Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade in terms of sponsorship value, Ganis said. But companies might be willing to pay more to sign Curry because of his rising-star status and because the Warriors are based in the Oakland-San Francisco area, a major media market.

Next: The ‘MVP’ shoe

SouthPark Mall’s Foot Locker sold more than 100 pairs of Curry’s Under Armour “Curry One” in a month, Politis said. The store is expecting his new shoe, “MVP,” to arrive on Sunday.

However much the brand paid for Curry’s contract in 2013, it was a bargain in hindsight, said John Horan, publisher of the industry tracker Sporting Goods Intelligence.

“Under Armour will put some serious cash on the table to keep him,” Horan said. “Twenty million bucks a year wouldn’t surprise me.”

Even with that offer, Horan said, Curry should be mindful that Nike Inc. owns 92 percent of the U.S. basketball shoe market, according to Statista Inc., an online statistics company.

Nike had offered less than $2.5 million a year but did not match Under Armour’s offer two years ago, ESPN reported. It’s unlikely a brand would pick up a player already committed to its competitor, Horan said, but Nike did lure Kobe Bryant from Adidas and Serena Williams from PUMA.

To be sure, Curry is far from topping LeBron James, who earns about $100 million a year, including about $20 million from the Cavaliers, at least $50 million from sponsorships and other income as a business partner, Ganis said.

His future? Bright

James might be more popular elsewhere, but not in Davidson. Curry attended Davidson College and played basketball with the Wildcats for three seasons before being drafted by the Warriors in 2009.

“He’s well-followed here in every circle I’ve been in, with faculty, with students – alumni and current students,” said Bill Reilly, manager of the college store on North Main Street.

Since 2008, the store has sold more than 1,000 number-30 jerseys without Curry’s name. Those jerseys, which usually ran out in September, sold out this year in March, Reilly said, and he has received calls from as far as California looking for them.

To help fulfill demand, the school fashioned a T-shirt that looks like Curry’s college jersey. About 200 T-shirts started selling Friday at $34.99, Reilly said, and more jerseys will be available in October.

Curry has a career full of potential, Ganis said. “You know when people say ‘my future is so bright I have to wear shades?’ That’s him right now.”

Steph’s sponsors

Steph Curry’s estimated sponsorship income: $5.5 million.

Sponsors: Degree, Express, State Farm, Muscle Milk, JBL, Under Armour.

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