Dwyane Wade is quickly becoming one of the NBA's top off-the-court earners.
ESPN.com has learned that the Miami Heat guard has signed a multi-year deal with Gatorade, joining the likes of the league's other NBA endorsers, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett, New Jersey Nets forward Vince Carter and Houston Rockets center Yao Ming.
"The way in which this great brand has marketed in the past was very attractive to us," said Wade's agent, Henry Thomas.
Wade recently re-upped with Converse for six more years and NBA Live '06, Electronic Arts' video game which debuted last week, featured the 23-year-old on the cover.
"Everyone anticipated Dwyane would be a good NBA player, but nobody expected the superstar play so quickly," said Scott Becher, president of Sports & Sponsorships, a marketing firm based in South Florida. "The fact that he has accomplished what he has with such modesty is one of the reasons why he's a marketer's dream. He's probably among the most down-to-earth superstars fans will ever meet."
Wade told ESPN.com that he believes that people believe in what he has to pitch as an endorser because he is genuine.
"I don't say something just to say it," said Wade, who was included among People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" earlier this year. "Everything I say in life I do it for a purpose."
Wade grew up in Chicago and idolized Michael Jordan, the star of Gatorade's famous "Be Like Mike" commercials. As a youngster, Wade said he watched the Jordan video "Come Fly with Me" before games.
Gatorade is owned by PepsiCo and the brand's headquarters are based in Chicago.
"We are proud to welcome Dwyane into the family of Gatorade athletes, as his will to win and local Chicago ties make him a perfect fit for us," said Jeff Urban, Gatorade's director of sports marketing. "His talents on the court and his character off the court make him a fan favorite, an asset to Gatorade an obvious choice."
Jordan, who has been under contract with Gatorade for the past 14 years, has a deal with the brand that runs until 2007, but he has not appeared in a commercial for 2½ years.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Gatorade typically does not pay its endorsers more than $500,000 a year.
Gatorade has approximately 80 percent of the sports drink market, with POWERade's 19 percent coming in a distant second. The brand is the official sports drink of the league as well as of 28 of the 30 teams in the league, including the Miami Heat.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.firstname.lastname@example.org.