Nick DePaula ESPN
Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 pick in this week's NBA draft, signed a four-year multi-million dollar agreement to back the Puma footwear and clothing, the company announced on Monday.
The main prospect of the NBA draft, Marvin Bagley III, signed a five-year support agreement for footwear and apparel with Puma, ESPN confirmed with multiple sources.
For Ayton, there was a lot of interest in pursuing a shoe deal with Puma, although the brand has been out of the basketball landscape for 20 years since Vince Carter signed in 1998. Ayton shares a connection with two of his greatest ambbadadors , Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt from Jamaica and pop star Rihanna from Barbados, after growing up in the Caribbean.
"Puma is quite popular in the Bahamas," Ayton said. "I have always seen the brand grow. [Bolt] is one of the first people I saw with the brand, for me it is important that someone with whom I identify and admire as an athlete is of the same brand"
. Ayton's basketball trip brought him to the United States when he was 12 years old. He was instantly identified as the best eighth grader in the nation. Ayton continued to dominate on each level thereafter, and his only college season in Arizona saw him average 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, while showing a versatile skill set tailored to the modern NBA offense.
"He has an impressive talent and athleticism," said ESPN badyst Fran Fraschilla. "His engine works well and he has a tremendous offensive arsenal."
While other brands offered Ayton their own multi-year offerings, it was the ability to create their own path along with the relaunch of Puma's basketball category that appealed to him the most. .
"As I've been in the United States, I've seen what they do with artists and I've always liked that," Ayton said. "I see someone like Rihanna recently, who looks a lot like me, we have a similar track record, and she's putting her stamp on the brand, that's something that appeals to me on the creative side, eventually I want to be a part of bringing this new style of Puma my people. "
The return of the brand to the NBA comes as part of a major investment to sign players and launch new products in the market this fall. Puma has been aggressive before the draft, offering offers of several years for at least six projected first-round picks.
The brand will also announce a renewed partnership for life with the icon of long-standing brand Walt "Clyde" Frazier, who launched Puma's first basketball shoe in 1973. The clean, timeless silhouette, simply called Clyde, it has been re-launched without stopping in the following decades.
The worst kept secret: Puma is back in basketball. The company signs its first endorser, Walt Clyde Frazier, for a lifetime contract. Launched 73 pairs of limited editions in place on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn today. The new identifier is @PUMAHoops . pic.twitter.com/fmbgi5B0M0
– Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 18, 2018
As Puma relaunches with new products this year, it will release a modernized point version of the original Clyde, built with current technology for the current speed and physical forces of the game's best players like Ayton. The heel tab shows a "1973" wink to the original. Ayton has already tried the next basketball shoe, he is impressed with the performance and comfort.
"Anything that can make me play like Clyde – I'm with that! This is the first time I've experienced the shoe, but I'm excited to have an idea of them," Ayton said. "When I tried them for the first time, they were simple and soft, I felt like nothing was there, which never happens to me, I'm 18 in size and it seems like they already know how to put me in. I told Puma that I have some ideas about my shoe of basketball already – in form and style, that's how Clyde would do it.
As the brand begins to focus its marketing campaigns this week around the NBA draft, Ayton will also seek to be an outstanding athlete in lifestyle campaigns. Being able to expand beyond basketball was an important factor during the launch process, along with the ability to launch activations and products in his native Bahamas, where Puma has extensive experience.
Ayton is known for his disproportionate personality and will seems to be expressive and extroverted in his commercialization from the beginning. He likes to think of himself as more than just a basketball player.
"I'm an artist," Ayton said. "Puma knows the artists and the way we move, I like the color, I hope to see that, anything different and new, I hope to see that"
Ayton will join Marvin Bagley III and Zhaire Smith as first to sign with Puma in his renewed emphasis on basketball. The brand will present its new rookie signings this week before the draft during various activations and events in New York.