Earlier this week, news broke that New Balance was pursuing Gordon Hayward in the interest of relaunching their basketball shoes. Many of the more opportunistic hacks in the media saw this as a chance to “get some jokes off,” but professionals such as myself understand the weight that sports business carries. Like all respected sports business reporters, I analyzed the story from every angle to see if it passed the smell test.
The first thing they teach you in sports business writing school is “brands are what is most important,” so I decided to do some sleuthing on the street to see what New Balance’s brand base was. I stopped every person I ran into wearing the brand, and asked them some questions about their background. Eventually, (and after some rude comments were made on my 21-page questionnaire) an uncanny pattern emerged.
Everyone who wears New Balance sneakers is a dad.
Armed with this knowledge, I decided to do some brand analysis with someone who always been synonymous with paternity to me. No, not Coach Taylor, but my own real father. I reached out to my dad to ask him some questions to try to figure out if Gordon Hayward was a brand ‘fit’ for New Balance.
Sam Sheehan: You are predominantly a football fan, but know a thing or two about the Celtics due to my temper tantrums during the Celtics’ holiday losses. How do you see Gordon Hayward right now as a brand ambassador?
Sam’s Dad: I see Hayward as a someone with potential to grow into the role but I suspect its going to take a while before most comfortable shoe customers outside of New England will come to recognize him as the NB man.
This makes me skeptical right off the bat. Immediately, he sees “Dad comfort” as something Gordon will have to grow into. Perhaps some reps on a riding lawnmower listening to World War II podcasts could help this image, but it’s off message to start.
SS: You’ve been a father for almost 29 years now, and the New Balance brand has become synonymous with Big Dad Energy. Do you have any advice for Gordon Hayward as a father to make himself appeal more directly to the New Balance consumer base?
SD: Acknowledge the fact that he’s playing ball to provide for his family and be a leader and make good decisions on the court and off.
This is more like it. A fellow father sees Gordon as a fellow provider and patriarch. This is respect among lions, acknowledging that they care for their pride.
SS: Most of the action in our driveway basketball games growing up was you firmly blocking any and all attempts by my sister and I to score, followed by enthusiastic taunting. The upcoming New Balance basketball shoe will need full dad versatility in order to provide a competitive advantage to fathers who are building a child’s character through the psychological warfare of Shaq-style paint dominance. What features could Hayward endorse that might move the needle for future generations of “Driveway Dads”?
SD: Utility! A wide sturdy sole, lots of cushion in the midsole and an upper that reaches the shins. NB should avoid the frivolous color schemes and stick with the blinding white leather that has served them well through the years.
No comment necessary, as this is a man that CLEARLY understands the New Balance brand.
SS: Right now, you use your New Balance athletic shoes primarily for running. What would you need to see from Gordon Hayward as a spokesperson in order to invest in some basketball shoes? Would he need to present as an ultra-talented father or would you rather he aim for a hard working, lunchbox-style, grinding father?
SD: You know it would take a lot to get me to spring for a court shoe. I would need someone that I can really relate to---someone that I know shares my life experience and is just like me. So, ultra-talented father for sure.
FINAL BRAND TAKEWAY:
This last graph has got to be the takeaway for New Balance. If they want to sell these sneakers, they are going to need someone who relates to ultra-talented fathers that make up their customer base. From what we’ve seen on Robyn Hayward’s Instagram, Gordon has a lot of Dad potential and he is putting in his reps to be first-ballot HOF Dad. If he continues on this trajectory, he will absolutely be the perfect spokesman to reach Dads across the country.