|Right Guard is hoping that Chris Paul can help lead a comeback for the deodorant as he did for basketball in New Orleans.|
The pact is likely the first of many forthcoming for Mr. Paul, the unquestionable star of a New Orleans team that one year ago seemed destined to leave the Katrina-ravaged city. Instead, he turned in one of the greatest statistical seasons ever for a point guard, leading the Hornets to the best record in the National Basketball Association's hotly contested Southwest Division. He ultimately finished second in the league's Most Valuable Player voting, trailing only Kobe Bryant.
The turnaround in New Orleans was unquestionably the feel-good story of the NBA season, and marketers like Right Guard are eager to bask in its glow. "Absolutely, we're hoping we can have a comeback the same way Chris and the Hornets rejuvenated the basketball community in New Orleans," said Toby Gubitz, Right Guard's senior brand manager.
Mr. Gubitz said he hoped the relationship with Mr. Paul, 23, and the brand's new status as the NBA's official deodorant would help it rebuild "locker room credibility" among younger men, something he said has likely slipped in recent years as an ownership change has scaled back the brand's advertising and sponsorships.
Right Guard spent only $6.9 million in measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence, down from $22.4 million the year before.
In 2005, the brand spent $29.2 million, but was sold by parent Gillette Corp. a year later to Dial Corp. in a divestiture linked to Gillette's merger with Procter & Gamble.
The brand -- which did some memorable NBA-themed ads during the '90s starring Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley -- remains the No. 2 deodorant behind Old Spice. The NBA partnership calls for the league's logo to be placed on every package of Right Guard, a tactic also employed by NBA sponsors Sprite, Gatorade and Wrigley in recent years.
A forthcoming TV spot starring Mr. Paul shows a series of his on-court highlights, backed by a voice-over: "The game has gotten faster, the players, bigger, and the armpits, well ... looks like we got here just in time."
Mr. Paul's other endorsement deals to date have been of standard-issue variety for a top draft choice. He signed with Nike's Jordan brand and video-game maker 2K Sports shortly after joining the league, but hasn't done many deals since.
That may be about to change, according to his agent, Tom George of Octagon, who characterized interest as "high." Mr. George said discussions are ongoing with several beverage companies, but didn't disclose further details.
He noted, however, that Mr. Paul is building an online platform for his present and future sponsors on his website, chrispaul3.com, which hosts a series of webisodes starring Mr. Paul and, frequently, his sponsors. Content has highlighted his Nike shoe launch and his motion-capture session for 2K Sports. The latter, said Mr. George, "was basically a 3-minute spot for them."
Mr. George said Mr. Paul's appeal is somewhat enhanced by the "Katrina Effect," although he said the star was going to great lengths not to exploit that dynamic. "Everybody loves New Orleans right now," he said. "Sometimes, if you run an athlete nationwide, you might offend some of his rival fans. But with Chris, you can run him nationally and nobody hates him."