The NBA Finals are shaping up to be a heart-stopping showdown between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, especially with Game 4 on Thursday night. For the teams' two top stars, LeBron James and Stephen Curry, there's also ongoing competition to score lucrative sponsorship deals.
While James is the clear winner for now—Forbes has his endorsements pegged at $44 million annually—Curry is an up-and-comer, especially thanks to his 2015 NBA MVP award, recently inking deals with companies such as Under Armour and State Farm.
"Sports and athletes are passion points for consumers," said Kevin Collins, senior vice president of sports investment for Magna Global, the strategic media arm of IPG Mediabrands. "There needs to be a good connection between the athlete and the brand, and it needs to be relevant to fans."
A Nielsen Talent Analytics team polled more than 1,000 Americans to determine fan allegiances. Overall, 65 percent and 53 percent of survey takers considered James and Curry to be successful athletes, respectively.
To give a further a glimpse into whether that star athlete power may be able to drive sales, Nielsen pried further into expected consumer behaviors over the next year. Question topics were based on James' and Curry's existing sponsorship deals. For example, the participants were asked about purchasing carbonated beverages because of James' Sprite deal, while a deodorant question was prompted by Curry's Degree sponsorship.