Ronnie Stanley has signed a shoe and apparel deal, which is news in itself because he's an offensive tackle. But it's also news because of with whom he signed.
The 6-foot-6, 315-pound lineman out of Notre Dame, who is both Mel Kiper's and Todd McShay's No. 2 offensive lineman in the 2016 NFL draft, signed a deal with shoe and apparel retailer Zappos.
"Most guys do a shoe deal and they don't have any flexibility because they are tied to who paid them," said Stanley, who wears size 16. "I can do whatever I want."
Stanley said he's most likely going to wear either Nike or Under Armour, which he wore the last two seasons at Notre Dame. But should he not like either, he can change brands and models every week or even in-game. If he wants to have the logo showing on the shoe on the field of play, he'll be limited to wearing Nike, adidas or Under Armour, which have deals with the league.
Stanley will promote his relationship, which will also be for off-field lifestyle shoes and apparel, and in turn, he will get an undisclosed amount to shop for friends and family from the Zappos site. This is similar to catalog credit deals that Nike, Under Armour and Adidas offer to players.
The deal came together as a result of Stanley's signing with Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports. Roc Nation president Michael Yormark has a CEO Connect program, which matches up clients with influential CEOs to talk with and eventually mentor the players. Stanley got matched with Zappos' Tony Hsieh in part because Stanley is from Las Vegas, where Zappos has its headquarters.
"It was originally just about getting Ronnie in front of guys who are at the top of their game in terms of tech, which he is interested in, and to start a relationship founded on leadership, motivation and community," Yormark said. "But, at the end, we talked about the traditional way athletes are marketed with their shoe and apparel deals and felt it made sense to work together to try something different."
Jeff Espersen, general manager of merchandising for Zappos, said the deal with Stanley represents the first time they've had an endorser for the site.
"This is very much unknown territory for us," Espersen said. "But as people who are deeply involved with Las Vegas, we've followed Ronnie's amazing career to where he is today. He's a good person, and like us, he wants to be very involved in the community."
Espersen said that the company envisions Stanley being involved in the editorial side, describing the choices he has made on what to wear on his feet and body.
Stanley says he looks forward to learning more about business through the Zappos relationship. It's a distinctive company in that it's governed by a holacracy, which essentially eschews true traditional workplace structure. Employees of the company, which was purchased for $1.2 billion in 2009, don't have bosses.