Celebrity Influence - Kevin Durant Under Armour

When Celebrity Influence Is Wielded Against a Brand

We’ve already discussed the risks associated with traditional celebrity endorsement, but what happens when the typically powerful influence of a celebrity is used against a brand? NBA star Kevin Durant’s recent negative statements on Under Armour provide some telling insights.

“Nobody Wants to Play in Under Armours”

Last week, Golden State Warriors’ All-Star, Kevin Durant, badmouthed Under Armour shoes during an interview with Bill Simmons on his “The Ringer” podcast. In the interview, Durant stated:

Nobody wants to play in Under Armours, I’m sorry. The top kids don’t because they all play in Nike. […] Everybody knows that. They just don’t want to say nothing.

This comment was spurred when Durant (from the DC area) offered his take on why the University of Maryland, which is sponsored by Under Armour, doesn’t recruit better young athletes.

Durant played college basketball at University of Texas (notably, a Nike school) and has become one of both Nike’s and the NBA’s top players. He also commented:

For me, I didn’t want to go to Maryland. I didn’t want to stay home. I wanted to see what was outside that area. I don’t think a lot of kids, to be honest, choose Maryland unless they play in an Under Armour system coming up. Shoe companies have a real, real big influence on where these kids go.

Durant’s statements over the course of the interview ended up being more than mere disses to Under Armour’s shoes and brand. They resulted in shares of Under Armour quickly dropping more than three percent.

The Context

Back in 2014, Nike outbid Under Armour and re-signed its standing endorsement deal with Durant. According to Business Insider, “Under Armour offered [Durant] between $265 million and $285 million, which Nike matched, and the star elected to stay with the brand.”

Of note, Durant’s Warriors teammate and fellow NBA star Stephen Curry has a multimillion dollar contract with Under Armour. Neither Curry nor Under Armour have yet to comment on Durant’s remarks.

Celebrity Influence Bites Back

During his interview, Kevin Durant may have spoken highly of his brand, Nike, but, at the end of it all, even those moments of praise were overshadowed by his adverse take on Under Armour.

In cases of celebrity endorsement gone wrong, it can sometimes take months or even longer to see the full weight of its negative effects. In the case of Durant and Under Armour, a celebrity wielded their influence (willingly or unknowingly) and publicly spoke negatively of a brand. The negative repercussions were apparent almost immediately — the ultimate anti-endorsement.

Maybe even more than a well-executed and successful celebrity campaign, this case demonstrates the wildly influential (and perhaps unwieldy) power of celebrities and the market impact they can have on brands today.

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