Nike’s $14 Billion Presentation Mistake

Stephen Curry has become one of the most marketable athletes in sports. As the reigning league MVP, he set the record for the most made 3-pointers, he led the Golden State Warriors to the best start in NBA history and helped them win their first NBA title in 40 years.

So how did the “greatest shooter in NBA history” slip through the fingers of Nike, the most dominant athletic shoe and apparel company in the world? Apparently, the decision came down to a terrible sales pitch.

ESPN reveals how Nike tried to re-sign Stephen Curry to an endorsement deal and dropped the ball.

3 Sales Pitch Mistakes That Cost Nike a Deal with Steph Curry

1. Lack of Knowledge About the Customer

The pitch meeting, according to Steph’s father Dell, who was present, kicked off with one Nike official accidentally addressing Stephen as ‘Steph-on,’ the moniker, of course, of Steve Urkel’s alter ego in Family Matters. ‘I heard some people pronounce his name wrong before,’ says Dell. ‘I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction.’” (ESPN)

Getting a potential client’s name wrong is inexcusable. Successful salespeople do their homework: they not only know their customers’ names, but they understand the roles of decision-makers and influencers, study their likes and dislikes and use that information to their advantage. This is essential to having meaningful conversations and helps create a positive and personal buying experience.

2. Inability to Deliver a Personalized Presentation

It got worse from there. A PowerPoint slide featured [Oklahoma City Thunder forward] Kevin Durant’s name, presumably left on by accident, presumably residue from repurposed materials. ‘I stopped paying attention after that,’ Dell says. Though Dell resolved to ‘keep a poker face,’ throughout the entirety of the pitch, the decision to leave Nike was in the works.” (ESPN)

Nike’s presentation blunder may seem minor, but ignoring even small details can turn into big mistakes. It’s certainly not a way to impress a client–and Steph Curry and his father were not impressed. Effective presentations are tailored to their audiences. This not only showcases your professionalism, but it delivers on your brand’s promise of providing personal service. A well-crafted presentation goes a long way in making your customers feel important, builds trust and customer loyalty.

3. Not Focusing On a Customer’s Needs and Issues

“In truth, there had been other indications that Nike lacked interest before this meeting. There was the matter of whether Curry would get to lead a Nike-sponsored camp for up-and-coming players. ….Getting to run such a camp meant something to Curry, in part because participating in one meant something to him. That summer, when it was really decision time, [Nike] were looking at Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis coming up. They gave Kyrie a camp and they gave Anthony Davis a camp. They didn’t give Steph a camp.” (ESPN)

The key to keeping your customers happy is to find out precisely what motivates them. Know what your customers’ needs are and address them head-on when you ask for their business. Nothing makes a customer feel more valued than when you tell them their needs and happiness are your top priorities.

Curry signed an endorsement deal that ensures he wears Under Armour products exclusively through 2024. In the three years following that infamous Nike sales pitch, Curry made three straight All-Star games, and he’s become the face of the NBA and idol of millions of young boys and girls.

In addition to gaining the adoration of fans, Curry has gained a decent amount of leverage: his value to Under Armour is in excess of $14 billion. Under Armour’s shoe sales increased to $167 million, primarily because of Stephen Curry’s signature basketball line which is one of the top-selling basketball shoes in the world, second only to Michael Jordan’s in sales.

Lesson Learned

We all make mistakes, but even the simplest presentation mistakes can keep businesses from closing a deal. Those mistakes can also cost you future business opportunities. Most importantly, they can reflect poorly on you and your company’s brand image and reputation.

Presentations are your only chance to make the right impression on a prospect. With the range of tech solutions that make it easy to personalize presentations and give them from anywhere, on any device, eliminating errors should be effortless. Instead of manually creating error-laden presentations, salespeople should concentrate on their prospects’ needs and expectations.

Nike, a company with decades of experience and brand equity, learned that lesson too late.

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