Bringing New Balance to NIL
New Balance's innovative approach to leveraging NIL for Growth
Last May, NBC reported that New Balance, which brought in $5.3 billion in revenue in 2022, “is seeing its sales grow faster than that of larger rivals Nike and Adidas.” A Complex article titled “How New Balance Reinvented Itself” credited the company’s increased revenue and social media impressions to tapping into trends and working with iconic cultural collaborators.
At the core of that was Chris Davis, New Balance’s Chief Marketing Officer and the Senior Vice President of Merchandising. He began at New Balance after graduating from Middlebury College. In his over fifteen years at the company, he worked his way up to his current position, which he has held since 2020.
In 2023, New Balance was named Company of the Year by the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA). Davis also was part of Leader Sports Awards Leaders Under 40 class and was named on Forbes’ World’s Most Influential CMOs list last year for making New Balance “one of the most in-demand sneaker brands.”
In addition to a lineup of brand partners that includes: Klutch Athletics (Klutch Sports); artists like Jack Harlow and Jaden Smith and athletes like MLB’s Shohei Ohtani and the NBA’s Kawhi Leonard, New Balance has also been an active in the NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) marketplace. When NIL rules were established (in July 2021), Davis found an “uncharted opportunity.”
“I think for us, what was so exciting about NIL, is it really represented this wild west landscape where we could put the imprints of our brand values, our brand identity, our brand strategy in an arena that was fairly untouched,” Davis said.
New Balance has been very active in establishing pioneering NIL partnerships with college athletes including Stanford women’s basketball’s Cameron Brink and University of Kentucky men’s basketball’s Justin Edwards. As a running company at its core, New Balance has also signed an enviable roster of elite high school and college track and field athletes.
Davis described New Balance’s movement in the NIL space as “aggressive but calculated and disciplined,” with an emphasis on establishing strategy-based “long-term” partnerships, not unlike its deals with professional athletes.
“We really look at NIL the same way we look at our professional sports partnerships. We don’t really look at it in a different way,” Davis said.
Davis said that in both situations, New Balance is looking for the same kind of athletes: a reflection of the brand's values, a “fiercely independent mindset” and a willingness and understanding of being part of a challenger brand.
New Balance looks to NIL as an opportunity to “cement our authenticity in both sport and culture.” The company makes partnerships with athletes that align with its values. At the core of New Balance’s values are “teamwork, integrity and customer satisfaction,” Davis said.
Davis said that New Balance’s “robust” marketing team is behind the strategy and process of choosing ambassadors to act as representatives and extensions of New Balance. They use metrics like website traffic, media impressions and endorsement value to choose and evaluate ambassadors.
Davis suggests that athletes entering the NIL market “partner with a brand that’s investing in things that you care about,” since consumers see through inauthentic advertising. He emphasized that many brands work to build lasting relationships with their ambassadors whose personal values align with the company’s.
“I would say the most important thing is finding a brand and a space that you’re passionate about. A space that you can relate to and a brand that you’ve been a fan of for a long time.”
To learn more about Chris Davis and how he is guiding New Balance to a leadership position in NIL, watch his full interview with Chase Griffin on the The Athlete’s Bureau Podcast.
Griffin Uribe Brown, TAB Contributor, is a second-year student at Syracuse University from the Chicago area. He is a journalism and policy studies dual major and has spent the last few years doing a variety of coverage at SU, including the award-winning “Infodemic”, yearlong reporting project on misinformation. Griffin loves soccer more than almost anything and can be found on Instagram or X/Twitter.
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