The high school basketball player who bucked the trend and left the college and the NBA game in the dust by signing with a team in Europe has signed a shoe deal.
And Brandon Jennings, who turns 19 years old today, is forging even more history with this one. The 5-foot-11 point guard, who averaged 35.5 points a game at Oak Hill Academy during his senior season, will be wearing Under Armourbasketball shoes on his feet as he plays his games with Italian team, Pallacanestro Virtus Roma.
Jennings is the first basketball shoe endorser for the brand, which has signed him to a multi-year contract that is incentive based. Although Jennings has a three-year deal with the Italian team, it is well known that he has an out after each year.
“The endgame is for Brandon to make it the NBA and be the impact player that everyone is predicting that he’ll be,” said Steve Battista, Under Armour’s senior vice president of brand.
Under Armour benefited from the fact that this year’s draft class was one in which the shoe companies weren’t really interested in. No. 1 overall pick Derrick Rose signed with adidas, but no company has announced that they have signed No. 2 pick Michael Beasley.
Not one shoe company agreed to pay any single draftee more than $1.5 million per year. Some of that, insiders contend, has to do with the rather bland personalities at the top of the draft, but Jennings could be different. “Go to YouTube and you’ll see the dynamic player that he is and the magnetic personality Brandon has,” Battista said.
The fact that Under Armour hasn’t announced when they will bring a basketball shoe to market gives this endorsement time to blossom, even though the company will beginning featuring Jennings at point-of-purchase displays beginning by the end of the year (they've been making basketball apparel for two years). Under Armour currently sponsors men’s and women’s basketball and, last year, took over title sponsorship of the Capital Classic, the high school all-star game played at the University of Maryland.
Jennings’ advisor on the deal was Sonny Vaccaro, who of course helped forge the basketball shoe endorsement marketplace with Nike, adidas and Reebok. Said Vaccaro: "The uniqueness of being the first at Under Armour was attractive to Brandon and me. He is going to be their poster child."
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