It ’ s been a hell of a summer for Stephen Curry.
In June, he led the Golden State Warriors to victory, scoring his fourth championship ring and the finals MVP award, confirming their place as an NBA legend. In September, he inked a lifetime deal with Below Armour reportedly worth more than $1 billion . And today, he falls his latest sneaker with the athletic wear brand, the Curry Flow 10.
The sneaker is a milestone plus marks nearly a decade that the 34-year-old has been signed to Under Armour, a period that has been critical for both parties: Curry offers skyrocketed to meteoric success, while Below Armour provides struggled.
In the mid-2010s, Under Armour was the second-largest activewear brand in the United States by sales, second only to Nike. Since then, it has faced lawsuits from shareholders and universities ; the government is investigating its accounting practices; its corporate culture has come under fire; plus its sales have plummeted. It ’ s now fallen into fourth place, behind Nike pas cher, Adidas, and Puma. And sales of the Curry signature shoes, which were meant in order to buoy the particular business, have fluctuated over the years; the footwear designs possess failed to excite sneakerheads and, at times, already been mocked mercilessly .
“ These shoes that we ’ ve built together tell the lot of stories, ” Curry says. “ There have been a lot associated with amazing moments and I ’ ve won a lot of games. It ’ s the true partnership that [I ’ ve had with Under Armour], yet that doesn ’ t mean this ’ s always likely to be ideal. ”
So one of the big questions in the world of sportwear is why one associated with the most beloved athletes of our time, with unlimited business opportunities in his fingertips, has chosen to stay committed in order to Under Armour.
When Nike Lost a Legend
Curry joined the NBA right out of college and spent the first four years of his professional career as a Nike-sponsored athlete. Given Curry ’ s ambitions, it made sense with regard to him to continue working with Nike in the years that followed, since the particular company had engineered the most successful partnership with an athlete of all time. In 1984, Nike joined forces along with Michael Jordan to launch the Air Michael jordan sneakers plus then the particular Jordan Brand, which continues to generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually regarding Jordan, who has equity in the business.
When Curry was 25, his Nike contract expired, rendering him a free agent. Plus according to Sports Illustrated , Curry attended a pitch meeting that made it clear Nike was not serious about him. Nike pas cher ’ h representative experienced left Kevin Durant ’ s name on the PowerPoint presentation and mispronounced Curry ’ s title (he goes by “ Steph- en , ” not “ Steph- on ” ). So Curry shopped around, taking meetings with everyone from Adidas to Skechers , which had just invested within boutique performance sneaker brand name Brandblack .
But Curry states that Under Armour stood out from the pack because the company’s executives believed in his potential. “ I ’ d been playing pretty well and getting better every year, but I hadn ’ to made an All-Star team yet, ” Curry says. “ It was kind of overwhelming because you could talk yourself into a lot of different avenues with these different companies. I wanted in order to align with a company that would allow me to level up and take my basketball c areer forward. ”
And what won Curry over has been Under Shield ’ t promise to launch his own sneaker relatively early in his career. In 2013, Curry signed the deal, which might pay him $4 million the year. (Nike had offered only $2. 5 million. ) “ It had been about the particular opportunity to establish a sustainable signature business, ” he says. “ It was a good opportunity in order to bet on myself plus build something from scratch. ”
The Shifting Power Dynamics
At the time, Below Armour wielded the power within the relationship: Its sales were growing quickly and its stock had been up. But it didn ’ t take long intended for that dynamic to shift. In 2015, Curry launched his first signature sneaker—the Curry 1—and also received his 1st NBA tournament. The shoes sold out immediately.
As Curry’s star rose in the years that will followed, Under Armour prominently featured your pet on billboards and TV spots, effectively making him the face associated with the brand. The company promised to build a separate business close to him, bringing on a former executive from Nike who helped release the Jordan brand. And Under Armour gave Curry more involvement in the creation from the sneakers. “ I look at Stephen not simply as the muse but the client, ” says Tom Luedecke, Below Armour ’ s design director of footwear innovation. “ You want the particular client to be super happy. And if he ’ s delighted, the shoe will most likely resonate with any ballplayer . ”
Curry states that despite his grueling schedule, he remains intimately involved with the creation associated with each sneaker in their line — from choosing colors that reflect his fashion sensibilities to picking materials that will improve performance — since this individual wears the particular sneakers on the court. When he experienced ankle injuries, he worked with Under Shield designers in order to adapt the shoe. “ A lot of it had to do with the height of the particular collar of the footwear and how it was tailored to fit the foot, to give me stability and reduce ankle accidental injuries, ” Curry says. “ You have got to love the (design) process because it ’ s i9000 hard, tedious work. ”
After the achievement of the Curry 1, sales associated with the Curry 2 and 3 were lackluster, along with sneakers quickly ending up on clearance racks; some called them ugly plus boring . Since then, the particular popularity of Curry ’ s signature bank sneakers has fluctuated. The particular Curry 8 and 9 were well reviewed simply by sites like Highsnobiety and the Hoops Geek , largely for their innovative technical features, such as soles that grip the particular floor without causing the squeak. I ndeed , Under Armour has prioritized performance in its design procedure, while Nike, Adidas, and Reebok ha ve expanded into creating fashion-forward shoes or boots to feed the athleisure trend. Some analysts believe this has contributed in order to Under Shield ’ ersus overall decline , and may explain why the Curry sneakers haven ’ capital t had the wide appeal of other personal lines.
What Lies Ahead
Under Armour has made missteps that will nearly jeopardized its partnership with Curry, according to The New York Times . In 2017, for instance, Curry took issue with Under Armour ’ s then-CEO , Kevin Plank , calling President Donald Trump “ a real asset ” to the particular country, prompting Planks in order to take out the full-page newspaper ad saying his comments did not reflect his intent.
Within a sign of exactly how seriously Below Armour takes its connection with Curry — and how vital Curry is to Under Shield ’ h success — the company offers continuously taken steps to win him over. In 2020, Under Armour expanded Curry ’ t purview within the organization by launching Curry Brand , which will go beyond trademark sneakers. The line gave Curry an opportunity to create apparel plus footwear across different sports, including golf, another passion of their. And this gave your pet their own logo. “ It features the ‘ S ’ and a ‘ C ’ in his name, but it also has another flourish above it, referring to his belief in a higher power, ” says Steve Segears, senior merchant to get the Curry Brand from Under Shield.
Plus according to Rolling Stone reporter Matt Sullivan, Curry signed a lifetime deal with Under Armour that is worth more than a billion dollars. The particular contract likely includes equity within the business, which was the condition associated with his earlier agreement . This deal puts Curry ahead of other top-tier athletes like James Harden, who earns around $200 million through Adidas, and Kevin Durant, who makes an estimated $300 mil from Nike pas cher. But it also means that Curry is bound to Under Armour’s fate, which is a risky proposition given the company’s missteps.
Even because Curry shelves up championship wins and continues to transform the sport of basketball, he or she ’ s i9000 thinking about their legacy. By sticking by Under Shield through the rocky years, he ’ ersus built a store associated with goodwill at the company that has allowed him to pursue his goals, particularly his philanthropic aspirations. “ When all of us first spoke to Steph, he said he wanted to produce the Mary s of signature footwear, in that he desired the shoes in order to give back to the community, ” Segears says . “ We ’ re grounding ourselves on that will mandate. ”
As part associated with Curry Brand name, Under Armour has committed to devoting a portion of the sales to supporting causes that are important to Curry, including sponsoring Curry Camp, now within its seventh year. These programs are often very personal to Curry. For example, the organization provides just refurbished a basketball court across the street from Curry ’ s alma mater, Davidson College in North Carolina . “ I volunteered as a student athlete upon campus within an after-school program that services kids in that will area, ” Curry says. “ Our strategy about these programs falls below me directly. It ’ s about the impact I want this brand in order to make beyond putting sneakers on the market. ”
There doesn ’ big t seem to be the path pertaining to Curry Brand to reach the status of Nike’s Jordan Brand name. But Curry still believes that their best shot at cementing his legacy with a brand lies along with Under Shield, a company that bet on him before he was a star and a place where he has clout. As one of the firm ’ h best assets, Curry can play the role in lifting Below Armour ’ s prospects. “ Ten unique shoes later, we all seen highs plus lows, ” Curry says associated with his romantic relationship with Under Armour. “ All of us ’ ve learned difficult lessons regarding business and how to continue in order to build within spite of setbacks . I have no regrets. ”