|Wednesday, July 24
Williams earning his stripes with adidas
By Darren Rovell
"Adidas made a generous offer, but ultimately this is about the brand," Williams told ESPN.com. "Adidas has an extremely high quality shoe and I feel very comfortable in them."
During his three years at the Duke University, Williams wore Nike. But Williams -- who has been wearing adidas throughout the summer league games in Salt Lake City -- said he played with adidas shoes during his AAU days.
"Over time, we feel Jay is going to be one of the best point guards in the league, and he also will be playing in one of the largest markets," said Kip Meyer, adidas' director of sports marketing.
On July 10, Williams signed a three-year deal with the Bulls worth $11.1 million.
Like his Duke teammate Shane Battier was to last year's class, Williams is thus far the endorsement winner of the this year's draft. Williams has already inked deals with video game company Sega and an exclusive memorabilia deal with Upper Deck. Other deals are in the works, including a car deal, said Bill Sanders, director of marketing for BDA Sports, the agency that represents the point guard.
Meyer said the fact that Williams was aligned with Nike for his years at Duke won't affect how hard he has to convince the public that adidas is his brand of choice.
"People knew Jay as a great player at Duke," Meyer said. "I don't really think they tie him to the swoosh."
Williams, who will not have his own shoe next year, will be part of a global marketing campaign in spring 2003. Adidas will be increasing its basketball marketing budget this year, said adidas spokeswoman Nicole Vollebregt.
In April, adidas signed Orlando Magic forward Tracy McGrady to a lifetime contract. A campaign for McGrady's T-Mac II's will begin in November. Last week, the company announced that it had mutually agreed to part ways with Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who was under contract with the company for six years. Meyer declined to comment on the breakup.
The company is said to be in a heated battle with Nike over LeBron James, the prep star who is projected to become the top pick in the 2003 NBA draft.
Adidas has about 65 NBA players endorsing its shoes, including Houston Rockets forward Eddie Griffin, Boston Celtics forward Antoine Walker, Milwaukee Bucks forward Tim Thomas and Golden State Warriors forward Antawn Jamison.
"The future at adidas is very bright," said Williams, who noted that his strong friendship with adidas basketball czar Sonny Vaccaro was another factor in his signing with the shoe brand. "The company is on the rise with great potential and a great roster of players. I'm a member of the adidas team now and it's time for us to make our mark for the stripes."
Williams has averaged 13 points and 2.6 assists over his three games in Salt Lake City.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.