Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Nike-Davidson Tryst?

I have to give it to Nike, they know a cash cow when they see it. Here's Davidson, this year's Cinderella team in the NCAA's, making their run to the Sweet 16 and then the Elite 8, and all of a sudden there are thousands of Davidson supporters in Detroit, and this from a school with an enrollment around 1,200.

But look a little closer. First, just take a look at the matching red shirts every one of them, including Davidson star sharpshooter Stephen Curry's father, is wearing - one word, "Witness," is emblazoned on the front, and below it, not subtly, is the ubiquitous Swoosh logo.

Then, who's in the stands cheering for Davidson? And better yet, who, by some "rumor" buzzing around the stadium, was predicted to be there cheering for Davidson? Why, that's LeBron James, Nike's reigning basketball endorsement kingpin, cheering for "the kid" as he calls him.

Now, if this seemed to happen even remotely organically - if I thought LeBron James really knew the assistant women's soccer coach at Davidson, much less had to sink so low as to buy a ticket to the game from her, as the rumor goes - I would say that's a wonderful example of gamesmanship trumping celebrity. But it looks much more to me like a shrewd business manuever by Nike to initiate a future endorsement from a possible cash cow in Curry, and get some more brand exposure (as if we don't get enough) on a nationally televised game. The fact that it's Nike, perhaps the biggest brand in sports apparel, supposedly rooting for the underdog is especially ironic.

So I say, with all the "Davidson vs. Goliath" hype of this game, that Davidson losing was a nice victory over Goliath, The Man, the powers-that-be; at least in the Final Four Nike will only be endorsing the athletes' shirts.

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