I’m sure that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are more marketable, but Gilbert Arenas is an extremely good spokesman. The guy has obviously garnered a ridiculous amount of attention for himself thanks to his play on the court, his “Hibachi” legend and the birthday party that he invited the world to. I first spoke to Arenas last year when I had heard that he was really unhappy with his Adidas deal . He told me something I’ve never heard an athlete say, “I want to be in their advertising, have a commercial, be in a print campaign. I'll even pay for the commercial to be made." I honestly thought it was a bit strange and in a way felt that Arenas didn’t deserve his own commercial and shoe at the time. Luckily, the folks at Adidas firmed up their partnership with Arenas and gave him his own shoe and his advertising campaign. They look smart now that Arenas is one of the most talked about players in the league. And he’s definitely among the most marketable. His jersey is the eighth best selling jersey in the league, according the NBA’s rankings that were released in January and kids all over the place are wearing the number “0.” Arenas is part of Adidas’ campaign called “What’s Your Impossible?” and he’s a perfect spokesman.
“I had a great story from not getting recruited that much out of high school and people saying I was going to play zero minutes (at the University of Arizona),” Arenas said. “Getting picked 31 (in the 2001 NBA Draft). Everyone said I wasn’t going to be anything and I believed in myself and that’s why I say ‘Impossible Is Nothing’ because I am what the campaign is. I came from zero to hero.”
Arenas, who also has an endorsement with Glaceau’s Vitaminwater, has also made a name for himself by guaranteeing he’ll score a certain number of points -- specifically 50 against the Blazers and Suns.
“People are looking for entertainment,” Arenas said. “You can’t have the same old cliché about ‘I’m an NBA. I can’t do certain things. I’m watching my image.’ I look at it like this, I don’t really have an image to watch, so I can actually do what I feel like doing.”
The only thing I was really concerned about was the confusion of nicknames -- with some calling him “Agent Zero” and others calling him “Hibachi.” We’re happy Arenas cleared things up for us. Said Arenas: “I’m Agent Zero. My arm is the hibachi grill.”
The Sporting Goods Industry:
I had great fun poring over data given to me that came from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association's 2nd Industry Leaders Summit, which is taking place in Washington, D.C., this week. Here are some of the best stats:
- The U.S. sporting goods industry is a $66 billion wholesale business. It grew at 5.8 percent in 2006 compared to the U.S. GDP, which only grew 3.6 percent.
- Sports apparel -- fueled by compression fabrics -- grew 8 percent to $28.8 billion in 2006.
- Athletic footwear sales were up 3 percent to $12.3 billion, which only increased because the average price of shoes sold increased. This was after this segment experienced a 19 percent gain in 2005.
- Retail sales of sports licensed products were up 4 percent last year to an all-time high of $13.9 billion, according to The Licensing Letter.
- High school data suggests that the number of women athletes is now increasing no faster than the number of boy athletes.
- Despite what you might have heard, the paintball business seems to be quite static. Sales of paintball equipment were $340 million in 2006, the same that they were in 2005 and less than the $417 million the industry clocked in at in 2004.
Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com