Puma Signs Deal With 17-Year-Old High School Basketball Phenom
(Bloomberg) -- Puma SE clinched an endorsement deal with high school basketball star Mikey Williams, making the 17-year-old one of the youngest players ever to sign with a global sneaker brand.
The multiyear deal with Williams gives Puma a top prospect with a sizable following on social media. As part of the arrangement, he’ll be featured in Puma ads and events while creating content for social channels. The parties declined to share the financial terms.
“His reach with the young consumer is incredible,” said Adam Petrick, Puma’s global director of brand and marketing. “He’s obviously a basketball player first, but we also see him as a basketball influencer.”
Puma expects to work with Williams on branded products at some point, but Petrick said it’s too early to consider a signature shoe. The high schooler is years away from going pro and still developing his skills on the court.
Brands are rushing to sign student athletes to promotional deals, looking to capitalize on younger talent to attract valuable Gen Z consumers and establish ties with potential global stars early on in their careers.
Major labels like Puma, Adidas AG and Under Armour Inc. aim high for their basketball celebrities, targeting expected top picks in the National Basketball Association’s annual drafts. This year, top selection Cade Cunningham signed a long-term deal with Nike Inc.
Puma returned to the basketball business in 2018 and considers it a potential growth category. Williams joins several young NBA stars who’ve been added to Puma’s roster in recent years, such as 20-year-old Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball, 21-year-old RJ Barrett and 23-year-old Deandre Ayton.
Williams, a 6-foot-3 guard from San Diego, plays for Vertical Academy in the Charlotte, North Carolina area, and is ranked as a five-star national recruit. He hasn’t decided if he’ll go to college and is trying to carefully navigate business opportunities as they appear.
“I want to make the right decisions,” Williams said in an interview. “I have people around me I trust to help me bring those ideas to life so I can focus on playing basketball.”
The Right Fit
Finding him a shoe label was a priority from the get-go, said Matt Davis from Excel Sports Management, who Williams signed with in July to handle deals. Earlier this year, Williams landed a national ad with the video game NBA 2K.
“We’re treating him no different than a top pick in the NBA draft,” Davis said. “We’re not looking at small deals, we’re looking at really large partnerships.”
Williams has about 3.3 million followers on Instagram and more than 5 million across social media, which is more than some NBA franchises have on their official accounts. Most of what he posts is about hoops and the culture around the game.
“Outside of basketball, I consider myself a content creator,” Williams said. “So I can see getting into working on different creative projects. I like connecting with people and want to keep finding ways to do that.”
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