One of my favorite “guilty pleasure” movies is Patrick Swayze’s “Road House”. It’s one of those flicks that no matter what I’m watching or doing, I’m almost guaranteed to stop to invest my time in Dalton’s antics.
As a “Cooler” Dalton was one of the best in the business and was working in top flight bars and night clubs, but like any man, was always a Free Agent when it came to where he hung his hat… so long as the price was right.
Frank Tilghman owned the “Double Deuce” bar and wanted the best, so he sought out Dalton to be his premier “Cooler” and re-build his business. It wasn’t much of a negotiation as initially, Dalton has this to say:
Dalton: Wade Garrett’s the best.
Tilghman: Wade Garrett’s getting old.
Dalton: He’s still the best.
Tilghman: I want you.
Dalton: $5,000 up front. $500 a night, cash. You pay all medical expenses.
The year was 1989. I’m no economist, but I’m thinking that taking inflation into consideration on a 5 night work week, that the $5,000 signing bonus AND $10,000 a month to be a cooler in a Kansas City honky-tonk was CRAZY cash by today’s (or any) standards.
So, what am I getting at here? What does “Road House” have to do with KD?
Let’s figure out the players here. Dalton is KD. Nike is Bandstand (the nightclub Dalton initially is working at). Kevin Plank is Frank Tilghman. Under Armour is the Double Deuce. LeBron James will play the role of Wade Garrett.
Durant is coming off an MVP season and his 4th scoring title in the last 5 seasons. He is among the best 2 or 3 players in the NBA right now depending upon who you talk to. He is elite. LIKE Frank Tilghman, Kevin Plank wants to liven up his business and offers, what he feels, is an offer Durant can’t refuse and Nike can’t match. LIKE Frank Tilghman, he doesn’t go after THE best, in LeBron. Wade Garrett was old. LeBron perhaps untouchable. UNLIKE Frank Tilghman, Plank looks to have come up on the short end of the stick in his plea to score the next best thing.
Tilghman knew he didn’t want the best in Wade Garrett, but was fine paying Dalton what I’ll call “LeBron money”. Apparently Plank was fine throwing “LeBron money” at KD even if the numbers weren’t supportive of a positive return on investment in the Under Armour basketball stable.
Do you put all your eggs in one basket, roll the dice, every other cliche in the book and just pay out of the ass to one guy to gain market share? Plank and Tilghman both thought so. Tilghman got Dalton, cleaned up his bar AND his community, ridding it of the awful Brad Wesley. Unfortunately, Garrett lost his life in mix. Plank reportedly has lost in his bid for Durant, but will maintain a solid brand with incredible technologies and a handful of well known athletes endorsing product. The community? After this, my guess is you’ll find more of the power players seriously entertaining these offers as their shoe contracts expire. Hell, why wouldn’t you? Team loyalty has come and gone, endorsements are no different… especially now in the kick game. Oh, and LeBron? He’ll, be just fine.
Plank and Tilghman have a lot in common in that they simply wanted to buy their way into relevance. Each went after the same guy with the same energy and the same type of offer. One won, one lost. And Kevin Plank doesn’t have to worry about writing that $285,000,000 check. Was it smart on Under Armour’s behalf to offer this amount? Was it smart on Nike’s behalf to match? I guess that all depends on who you are and what you’re analyzing. In the long run, the consumer will be impacted in the way his signature product will be presented to us simply to justify the contract, but this would have happened no matter where KD ended.
For Plank, on to Plan B…
Words by Todd Krevanchi (@krvanch)