Puma has struck yet another basketball deal as it throws more money into a game that's been dominated by Nike, Under Armour and Adidas. The brand will sponsor The Basketball Tournament, a $2 million winner-take-all summer hoops tourney broadcast on ESPN that comprises 72 teams of ex-NBA players, former college stars and international players.
The pact caps a week of headline-grabbing basketball deals. They include Puma endorsements with several players expected to be high draft picks in Thursday night's NBA Draft: Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III and Michael Porter Jr. They mark Puma's first NBA player deals since the late 1990s. To help make hoops noise, Puma also named Jay-Z as creative director.
The Basketball Tournament, now in its fifth season, begins June 29, and attempts to fill a summer hoops void by spotlighting players known well by hoops junkies. One team that includes ex-Syracuse players such as Hakim Warrick is named Boeheim Army, after Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. Puma negotiated a significant presence in the games, 21 of which will be shown on ESPN or ESPN2. Puma says it will offer an endorsement deal to any player competing in the league who goes on to make an NBA team. After last year's tourney, 16 participating players signed NBA deals.
The tournament—which this year is experimenting with a radical end-of-game scoring system—is no NBA, of course. But with other sneaker brands already locked into deals with major basketball properties (Nike has its logo on all NBA jerseys, for instance), the sponsorship gives Puma another way into the sport beyond individual player deals. Financial terms were not not released for the multiyear deal.
"Outside of a partnership with the NBA, TBT [The Basketball Tournament] is a great alternative," says Adam Petrick, global director of marketing and brand for Puma. "As a newcomer in the sport we are really an underdog. So being able to align to an organization that is trying to do new and interesting things, really to be disruptive in a positive sense, was great for us from a values proposition."
For its hoops marketing push, Puma is working with New York-based creative shop Nowadays. While Puma will do some traditional advertising, Petrick says Puma will be "depending more on the earned silo than the paid."