Welcome to our first ever, Sunday Showdown. Today, opendorse analyzed the marketing production of this week’s star-studded matchup in the NBA – Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony.
At the age of three, Kobe and his family moved to Italy so that his father, Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant could continue playing professionally after leaving the NBA. After ten seasons in Europe, Joe retired from basketball and moved his family back to the United States. Almost immediately, Kobe began to showcase his talents on the court.Kobe dominated throughout high school. In his senior season, he averaged 30 points-per-game, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, leading his school to its first state championship in 53 years. He ended his high school career as the highest scorer in school history, beating out all-time great, Wilt Chamberlain. The success led to him winning almost every accolade imaginable, including multiple National Player of the Year awards. After garnering interest from every major college program in the country, Kobe made the decision to forgo college and declare for the draft, following in the footsteps of Kevin Garnett who did so the year before.
After a disappointing rookie season and playoff performance, Kobe’s success skyrocketed. In his previous 19 years in the league, Kobe has been selected as an All-Star 17 times, won five NBA Championships and was named MVP of the league in 2008. In the last two years, injuries have began taking their toll on the Laker great and have held him out for a large chunk of each season, including almost all of 2013-14 due to an achilles tear.
After declaring for the NBA draft, Kobe received his first endorsement deal with Adidas worth $48 million over six years. In years following, Kobe teamed up with Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Spalding, and the Italian chocolate company, Ferrero SpA. In 2003 Kobe was arrested on sexual assault charges. A year later the charges were dropped but it was too late for some major brands that Kobe represented. McDonald’s and Ferrero SpA both terminated their contracts with Bryant once the allegations became public. Nike, who had just signed the Laker guard, refused to use his image or market a shoe under his name until his image was restored. Once his public image was clean, Kobe began to see brands reach out again. Coca-Cola continued their relationship and Bryant found himself on the cover of the NBA ’07 video game. In 2009, he teamed up with Nubeo, a premium watch company, to create his own line of watches named after the nickname he had coined early in his career; the “Black Mamba” collection.
Today, Kobe Bryant holds over ten endorsement deals and is one of the top athlete endorsement earners in the world. Nike has continued to leverage Bryant’s popularity in China and saw a 100% increase in shoe sales at over $100 million in the U.S. from Kobe’s signature shoe. In 2010, Kobe partnered with Turkish Airlines and stared in their ad alongside Lionel Messi where they hilariously one-up each other for a young fan’s affection. A year later, the duo returned for Turkish Airlines and participated in an ad featuring the two stars racing around the world to see who could take the best selfie. Bryant was also recently featured in an ad for EA Sports’ FIFA ’16 with USWNT star, Alex Morgan. The NBA vet also holds endorsements from Lenovo, Smart USA and Hublot.
The 19-year veteran has built one of the most impressive endorsement portfolios in sports history. The Laker great has built one of the world’s most recognized and marketable names. His career may be coming to its conclusion, but with his world-wide notoriety, this guaranteed Hall-of-Famer could see his endorsement earnings continue to rise even as he steps away from the NBA.
Growing up in the projects of Brooklyn, Carmelo experienced a difficult childhood. At the age of two, his father passed away, leading to being raised solely by his mother. With crime and drugs running rampant in his neighborhood, Carmelo focused on sports to better his life and his mother’s. His grades began to slip during his junior year, leading Carmelo to transfer to the national basketball powerhouse, Oak Hill Academy. During his senior year, Carmelo participated in the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival where he tied with LeBron James for the tournament scoring title. The two immediately struck up a friendship. Following a successful senior campaign at Oak Hill Academy, Carmelo was ranked as a top-three prospect in the nation by every major magazine. In his final attempt, Anthony received a high enough ACT score to be accepted into Syracuse University where he committed to play his college career.
In only one season at Syracuse, Carmelo led the Orange to a National Championship and was the consensus Freshman Player of the Year. Although his initial plan was to play two or three years in college, Carmelo declared for the NBA draft. With LeBron James and Darko Milicic being drafted first and second, Carmelo Anthony was selected third overall by the Denver Nuggets. During his time in Denver, Anthony was a three-time All-Star before being traded to New York in 2011. Since arriving in the Big Apple, Carmelo has been selected to four more All-Star games and added a scoring title in 2013.
Sitting behind only Michael Jordan and LeBron James as Nike’s biggest NBA endorsers, Carmelo helped the athletic apparel juggernaut earn $30 million in sales from his signature shoe last year. Throughout his career, Carmelo has been featured on each of EA Sports three basketball titles, beginning with NCAA March Madness in 2003. Anthony has also partnered with Foot Locker and can be seen in their commercial below. Nickelodeon and Carmelo have recently announced that they will be teaming up for the release of a “Turtles by Melo” product line based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise.
Carmelo recently got involved with a headphone brand, but passed up Bose and Beats by Dre to partner with 50 Cent’s SMS Audio. Melo has done multiple commercials for the company and also launched a signature line of headphone products. Carmelo also holds endorsements from two premium watch brands, IWC and Haute Time, as well as DraftKings, Steiner Sports and Isotonix.
After spending the early part of his career in Denver, Melo’s marketability has benefited greatly from the move back home and playing on one of the world’s most valuable teams. At the age of 31, Carmelo should still have several strong years ahead of him. Although the Knicks have struggled since Carmelo’s arrival, he remains the face of one of the most prominent franchises in sports and brands have taken notice.