Foot Locker spoofs D'Angelo Russell/Swaggy P scandal in new NBA ad

Dive Brief:

  • A new Foot Locker commercial released on the eve of the National Basketball Association’s 2016 rookie draft features Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell, the central figure in one of the juiciest locker room dramas in recent pro sports history.
  • Earlier this year, first-year-player Russell used his smartphone to secretly record Lakers teammate Nick “Swaggy P” Young—then the fiancée of rapper Iggy Azalea—recounting his romantic infidelities. The video subsequently leaked online, making Russell a pariah within the Lakers organization, according to ESPN.
  • The Foot Locker spot depicts presumptive number one overall pick Ben Simmons receiving advice from the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns and Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker, both selected in the 2015 draft. Russell then asks Simmons for his phone and tosses it into the ocean. “Trust me,” Russell intones.

Dive Insight:

Three months after the D’Angelo Russell/Nick Young saga hijacked sports media headlines and talk radio conversation, the dust still hasn’t settled. ESPN NBA Insider Chad Ford reports the Lakers may even trade Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in 2015, after the video leak “burned some bridges in the locker room.”

The 20-year-old Russell has repeatedly apologized for breaking the unwritten locker room code, saying in March, "I feel as sick as possible. I wish I could make things better right away, but I can’t.” The new Foot Locker ad should help further humanize Russell by generating laughs at his expense—a proven method for easing scandal-rocked celebrities back into the public’s good graces.

How the Foot Locker ad will play in the Lakers’ locker room is another story, however. Young—who has since broken off his engagement to Azalea—tweeted “Real funny” on Tuesday after the commercial first began making the rounds on social media.

The advertisement comes at a time when Foot Locker's recent sales, particularly of basketball shoes, have missed analyst expectations. Foot Locker's total sales for the first quarter increased 3.9% while same-store sales increased 2.9%, missing FactSet estimates of 4.5%. Executives blamed disappointing sales totals in part on declines in basketball footwear, noting declining demand for Nike’s LeBron James and Kevin Durant signature models.

Russell's commercial co-star Simmons, expected to go to the Philadelphia 76ers with the top pick, could help reinvigorate Foot Locker's basketball shoe sales as well as Nike's street cred. Simmons signed an endorsement deal with Nike earlier this month; terms were not disclosed, but ESPN reported that Simmons accepted a smaller deal to go with Nike over Adidas.

Foot Locker last month reported first quarter net income of $191 million, up from $184 million a year earlier. The sportswear retailer posted earnings of $1.39 per share on revenue of $1.98 billion, a 7.8% increase from $1.29 per share in Q1 2015, but missed analyst estimates of $1.39 per share on revenue of $2 billion.

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Filed Under: Marketing