Kawhi Leonard became a two-time NBA Champion and two-time NBA Finals MVP on Thursday after leading the Toronto Raptors to a Game 6 win over the Golden State Warriors. While Toronto’s new darling is soaking in the adoration from global basketball fans happy to see him return from injury and dethrone the champions, New Balance, his footwear partner, is also receiving more love.
“We’ve seen a significant uptick in conversation around New Balance and Kawhi Leonard since we first introduced our partnership,” said Patrick Cassidy, New Balance global director, consumer marketing.
New Balance signed Leonard to a multiyear endorsement deal in November much to the surprise of many fans, who took opportunity to send jokes on Twitter. The Boston-based footwear company released on May 7 Leonard’s signature sneakers, OMN1s and 997 Sport, as a double pack, which sold out immediately. The second act was the June 7 launch of branded T-shirts that read “Fun Guy” as a nod to Leonard’s introductory press conference for the Toronto Raptors in October. After the Raptors’ victory on Thursday, the company put up a “Fun Guy” billboard for the athlete.
“Kawhi’s performance on-court has elevated New Balance Basketball to become a credible player in a very competitive space,” Cassidy added. “The positive sentiment that we’ve seen around the Fun Guy billboard and T-shirts and selling the Kawhi 2-Way Pack out in less than a minute are two specific examples of Kawhi having a positive impact on the New Balance brand.”
His performance also impacted the secondary market. At The RealReal, New Balance as a whole saw an 105 percent increase in Obsessions, an internal gauge of when a shopper clicks a “heart” icon next to a product to add it to their personal obsessions page. Under Armour, which has a collection with Warriors superstar Stephen Curry who faced off against Leonard in the NBA Finals, saw an 131 percent increase.
At StockX, Under Armour had a small increase in sales that was eclipsed by New Balance. “We weren’t expecting to see much movement or overall New Balance sales,” said Jesse Einhorn, StockX data content director. “After running the numbers, it appears that we have seen an overall increase in New Balance sales volume on our platform during the Playoffs [as compared to the previous time period].”
According to Einhorn, New Balance sales increased about 50 percent, and the average order value for New Balance sales increased by 20 percent. Prior to the NBA Finals, the New Balance 997S Kawhi Leonard 2-Way was reselling for an average price of $256 and jumped 63 percent to $417 during the Finals, and in the same time period, the New Balance OMN1s Kawhi Leonard 2-Way, which was reselling for $530 on average, jumped 61 percent to $855.
“It’s unclear how much of this is due to Kawhi and how much is just random noise,” Einhorn continued, “but it does suggest there may be a ‘Kawhi effect’ when it comes to New Balance popularity on the secondary market.”
The effect is not exclusive to New Balance either. Listings for the Pass the Torch’ Retro Air Jordan 1 sneakers from Leonard’s time with Jordan Brand also jumped in average price on StockX from $1,000 in May to $2,500 during the NBA Finals.
WATCH: Inside Francesco Ragazzi’s New Moncler Genius Collection