The NBA Is Collaborating With Luxury Fashion In A Big Way.
One of the biggest sporting competitions in the world, the NBA is unique among sports leagues. Flexing a diverse global audience, the NBA has long been the go-to for basketball fans worldwide. With a plethora of superstars from all corners of the world, the league is defined by its diversity.
Watched by nearly 10 million viewers in the United States alone, the NBA’s influence on culture cannot be understated. Fans tune in week in and week out to not only watch exciting basketball plays but also to see what their favourite players are wearing off the court too. The pre-game tunnel walk has become the NBA’s concrete equivalent of a fashion runway, and athletes have become valuable influencers for luxury brands. As a result, luxury fashion brands are producing more basketball-inspired products than ever before.
There has been a long-standing association between sports and luxury brands. A number of sports, including golf, tennis, and recently ESports, have long partnered with luxury fashion brands.
However, it is not until now that leagues like the NBA, historically aligned with behemoth sportswear brands like Nike, adidas, or Puma, have entered the luxury market. As a partner for luxury brands, the NBA combines sports with social and cultural issues through its authenticity and diversity.
Announcing a multi-year deal with Louis Vuitton, the NBA put the fashion world on notice with an unprecedented collaboration. A first of its kind for the most popular basketball league in the world, the partnership will see the heritage luxury house produce a travel case for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy and a capsule collection of clothing items and accessories designed by Virgil Abloh.
Teaming up with the world’s most valuable luxury brand, the foray into the luxury market via NBA-licensed fashion strengthens the league’s cool factor as it leverages its clout in hopes of connecting with a new generation of shoppers who aren’t just interested in jersey’s and sport accessories.
Bringing people around the world together in the name of sport, brands have routinely tapped players like Russell Westbrook, PJ Tucker or LeBron James, who are known for their off-the-court style in their campaigns. The success of these campaigns have been a key driver in the NBA’s move into the luxury market. As players are often in Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dior and other luxury fashion houses, with this collaboration, the NBA is formalising its ties with luxury fashion brands.
More recently, NBA teams like the LA Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers have inked their own exclusive design collaborations. The LA Lakers teamed up with Rhugi Villasenor’s LA-based RHUDE imprint for a capsule which blends socioeconomics and culture to create a visual commentary of Los Angeles style and culture. The smaller market Cleveland Cavaliers and its creative director, contemporary artist Daniel Arsham, teamed up with Tiffany & Co. to create a special edition Tiffany blue basketball for the 2022 All-Star Weekend, cementing the league’s luxury move.
The NBA has noticed the growth of basketball-related Instagram pages like UpscaleHype, which has led to the league recognising opportunities to venture into luxury markets. Through collaborations, the NBA can grow in scale and increase mainstream awareness, and as a result of its interconnection with fashion and music, it offers unique marketing opportunities. A major draw for NBA luxury collaborations and brand stretching strategies is its authenticity and diverse international audience.
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