|Now a Gatorade headliner, Dwyane Wade adding to business empire|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 20 December 2007 08:42|
He walks down the sidewalk of a closed Miami street, a few blocks south of the arena where his Miami Heat play, staring ahead as six guys wearing his uniform dribble past him.
Wade turns away from the camera. ``I liked that one,'' he said, obviously satisfied.
When it comes to off-court business, there isn't much for Wade not to like.
And many companies, most recently Gatorade, clearly believe his star power will continue rising.
He's a brand leader, along with Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, tennis star Maria Sharapova and Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, for Gatorade's newly released ``G2'' beverage. His new spot for the drink will be first aired during the Super Bowl, perhaps the biggest stage for TV ads.
``Personal style, charisma, he has it all,'' said Jeff Urban, the senior vice president of Gatorade sports marketing.
It's apparently all working, too.
Wade's longtime relationship with Converse is flourishing. His T-Mobile ads with Charles Barkley are everywhere. He's about to open a ``D. Wade's Sports Grill'' in South Florida, the first in what could be a chain. A DVD chronicling his life story coming out in early January, he recently signed with the powerful William Morris Agency with hopes of adding to his repertoire, and some real estate investments are planned as well.
Sure, Wade's basketball team is struggling these days.
But his business empire - one estimated to glean over $10 million annually, on top of the $14 million or so he'll make playing for the Heat this season - has never been stronger.
``At the end of the day, my job is to play basketball,'' Wade said in an interview with The Associated Press. ``I love to play the game. That's the only time I get to get away from everything in life, so that will always be a treat for me and a joy. But off-the-court is what sets me and my family up for the years after I get done.''
A bigger role with Gatorade is just the newest part of that plan.
Gatorade touts its ``G2'' launch as the largest in the company's history, and it comes at an ambitious time for the brand: Tiger Woods' new product, ``Gatorade Tiger,'' is set to hit stores in March. The ``G2'' drinks have less calories than traditional Gatorade and are geared toward athletes who are away from fields and courts.
To promote the new drink, Gatorade sought some of sports' biggest stars: Jeter, Sharapova, Manning and Wade - the 2006 NBA finals MVP who still laughs nervously when hearing his name in that sort of lineup.
Indeed, the poor kid from Robbins, Ill. is still baffled by how fame keeps coming his way.
``I'm just happy to be named with that bunch,'' Wade said. ``It's crazy. It's crazy whenever your name gets mentioned with some of the other greats in other sports. Your name always gets mentioned with people in your sports, but when you're with other sports, that shows how people view you.''
Wade says he has no problem keeping a balance between basketball demands and business dealings.
So now, he wants more. Of everything.
He's often talked about acting and dabbled a bit in that field last summer. With the Beijing Olympics coming up this summer, it's doubtful Wade would have any extended time off to begin seriously pursuing that avenue for at least a couple more years.
But that's also largely why he entered into a relationship with William Morris to handle some segments of his business plan.
``They're supposed to get me to the next level, the next level of where I'm supposed to be,'' Wade said. ``They can bring the next level of stuff out of me, a level I don't even know I have. Whether it's movie roles, or getting the best out of all my deals that I have, they have the ability to do that.''
Although the money is nice, it's not just about the lucrative cash: He enjoys the work.
For the Gatorade shoot, which took place as cars and buses cruised past at the end of the block, Wade had his brother and close friends not only on set, but even with a small role in the commercial. His mother watched it all from a director's chair, brimming with pride.
``This is wonderful,'' Jolinda Wade said.
``It's his dream and it's our dream to see it all happen for him,'' said Antoine Wade, his cousin.
Wade also has quickly grown to understand the responsibility that comes with being a pitchman.
Gatorade and Converse and other brands typically don't choose which athletes to align with on a lark. It's a major decision for any company, particularly with the type of investment those firms make both financially and strategically.
``One of our screens for athletes is that they're good people on and off the field and court,'' Urban said. ``We take great pride in the personal relationship we develop with an athlete and that athlete as they become a brand. And the sweat and equity we've put into Brand Dwyane ... it's an important part of what we lean on.''
Wade still speaks openly about his past struggles, growing up poor and in a rough neighborhood, then the challenge of having a wife and young son while playing basketball in college.
Those tough times are long gone. But Wade's desire to continue amassing wealth is only beginning.
``If they keep coming to me, then I know I'm still doing something right,'' Wade said.