Gatorade Gets Cross-Over Appeal With Trail Blazers Star and Hip-Hop Artist Damián Lillard

Garrett Ellwood | National Basketball Association | Getty Images
  • NBA All-Star Damián Lillard agreed to an endorsement deal with PepsiCo's Gatorade on Friday.
  • As part of the endorsement deal, the NBA star will be featured in new Gatorade advertisements starting this month.
  • Unlike other NBA stars on Gatorade's roster, Lillard is also a musical artist, recording under the name Dame D.O.L.L.A.

Another top star in the National Basketball Association will be endorsing sports drink maker Gatorade -- but this one is a budding music star as well.

Damián Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers' superstar guard, agreed to an endorsement deal with PepsiCo's Gatorade, the company announced on Friday. Gatorade will use the NBA All-Star's name, image, likeness, and social media accounts to endorse its BOLT24 product starting with a TV commercial that will debut this month.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Lillard joins a roster filled with NBA stars, including Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and the New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson. But the current roster lacks what Lillard brings – a music platform.

Outside of the NBA, the Blazers guard has gained fame in the music industry for his hip-hop recordings, released under the name Dame D.O.L.L.A. Top hip-hop acts have embraced and collaborated with Lillard, meaning that Gatorade gets a cross-over star endorsing their product on multiple platforms.

"Damian is not just a dynamic basketball player; he's also a dynamic person off the court," Jeff Kearney, global head of sports marketing at Gatorade, said in a statement. "He brings so much to the table – thoughtfulness, character, raw talent, honed craftsmanship – he's always ready, and he's always real."

"There is certainly a lot of cross-over appeal to him in particular," added Scott Rosner, a Columbia University sports management program professor. "He's absolutely a likable guy, a perennial All-Star, easily a top 20 player in the league. He's certainly an attractive individual for brands to want to run with – and for blue-chip brands."

Lillard, 30, averaged 37.6 points in eight games in the NBA's bubble restart and led the Blazers to a first-round playoff appearance in the postseason against eventual champions, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Lillard will make roughly $31 million for the 2020-21 season, the final before his new deal kicks in. Last year, the Oakland native signed a supermax deal with the Blazers -- a four-year, $196 million extension.

He has also released three music albums, with his debut, "The Letter 0" released in 2016. Lillard has collaborated with top rappers including Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz.

Lillard also has endorsement deals with apparel company Adidas and streaming service Hulu. Aligning with Lillard can help Gatorade continue to hold off rivals, including Bodyarmor, aiming to overtake the sports drink category.

"The gap is narrower than it's ever been," Rosner said. "Between Bodyarmor, and BioSteel entering in the space, joining Powerade and Gatorade, the competition is as big as it's ever been.

"So, you need to maintain that relevance with a younger generation that may know about 'Be Like Mike' [Michael Jordan], but he isn't relevant to their lives in the same way that a younger player like Damian Lillard could be."

Sports marketing executive Tony Ponturo added concurred when discussing Lillard's Gatorade addition with CNBC on Friday.

"They wanted to attach to someone, and the NBA star can be a great asset to stay relevant," said Ponturo, the former vice-president of Anheuser-Busch global media sports and entertainment marketing. "Sports has become entertainment and lifestyle.

"If you can cross all of those, " he added, "if you can get two or three [platforms] for the price of one, that's a pretty good way to go."

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