CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Basketball star Dwyane Wade is trading in his signature Converse shoes for Jordans, and in the process going from being the Nike subsidiary's primary endorser to joining the bevy of hoops stars in the still-bright Jordan firmament.
Mr. Wade's swapping of one Nike unit for another, despite having three years left on his Converse deal, comes amid an effort by the company under CEO Mark Parker to reduce redundancies among its different business units.
Brand Jordan, which counts NBA stars Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul as endorsers, has built a dominant position in basketball, growing its U.S. market share to 76% from 68% this year alone, according to SportsOneSource. Converse, by contrast, has a 1.5% share in basketball, but it is enjoying explosive growth in the fashion-oriented "classics" category, where its retro Chuck Taylor line has become the single best-selling footwear style in the U.S. Sales of the line are up better than 50% this year.
"There was a huge disconnect, in my opinion, between the strength of the Converse brand, which is really lifestyle and fashion, and having a performance brand within that," said veteran footwear analyst Matt Powell. "It makes sense for Nike to consolidate, and Wade was always an outlier."
That seems to have grated on Mr. Wade, who told the Associated Press, which broke the news of his brand swap, that he had first asked to switch brands shortly before the 2008 Olympics, a request that was originally rebuffed. "I didn't want to be in the Converse brand anymore because it seemed like they didn't know what to do with me," Wade told the AP.
He won't have that problem anymore. Nike and Brand Jordan can offer a significantly larger media platform than Converse. The combination spent about $148 million in measured media last year, a 4% increase, while Converse cut its spending 7.5%, to about $22 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence. In Mr. Wade, the Jordan brand is adding an onscreen talent who is playing high-profile roles in national campaigns for T-Mobile and Gatorade.
"It's a win-win for everyone," said a Nike spokesman, who said Mr. Parker signaled out Converse as a "standout" performer on a recent conference call. "We are so pleased that Dwyane Wade is staying within the Nike Inc. family. For Jordan Brand, his arrival means even more momentum to build on the exceptional year they just finished."