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NBA dress code could spur deals
Report: Clothing makers offering basketball players free clothes in return for endorsement deals.
November 23, 2005: 7:58 AM EST
SportsBiz SportsBiz Column archive Sports Illustrated email Chris Isidore

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - The National Basketball Association's controversial new dress code has some clothing manufacturers offering players free clothing in an effort to land endorsement deals, according to a published report.

Trade publication Advertising Age reports that Levi Strauss & Co.'s Dockers brand has offered to outfit all 450 NBA players with business-casual clothing at a cost of almost half a million dollars. And J.A. Apparel Corp.'s Joseph Abboud, maker of high-end suits, has sent a letter to more than 100 first- and second-year NBA players offering a clothing-for-advertising deal, according to the publication. Both companies are privately held.

In addition, Italian fashion house Valentino has contacted the league about an apparel deal, executives familiar with the matter told Ad Age.

NBA Commissioner David Stern received some criticism this summer when he required players to wear jackets, shirts with collars, dress pants and shoes with toes while traveling with the team or arriving and departing from games and practices.

Some saw the move as a way to bring back older fans who may have been turned off by a well-publicized brawl a year ago in a Detroit Pistons-Indiana Pacers game in suburban Detroit. But critics argued it was wrong to force players to abandon hip-hop-style clothing after playing up that image to attract younger fans.

One player, Marcus Camby of the Denver Nuggets, who has a $35 million, six-year contract, suggested players should be given a clothing allowance from the league to comply with the dress code.

Ad Age reports that many players were already getting free clothing even before the dress code was instituted. It reports Joseph Abboud was supplying New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury with a free suit for all 82 regular-season games in exchange for appearing in print ads and at promotional events.

Dockers' offer to give free clothing to all NBA players was more tongue-in-cheek, John Ordoa, director of nontraditional marketing for the company, told the publication.

"We're a lighthearted brand," he said. "We really wanted to speak to our customers."

But he told Ad Age that he has received several calls from agents and players about the offer, which includes five pairs of pants, 10 shirts, two pairs of shoes, a sport coat, nine pairs of socks and a reversible belt. The value of the offer is $960 per player, according to the trade publication.

Ad Age also reports that even some clothing retailers who aren't making free clothing offers are seeing interest from players. Mike O'Brien, CEO of Eleve, an exclusive, appointment-only couturier in Van Nuys, Calif., where suits can cost $15,000, told the publication he's been inundated with requests from NBA players, thanks to a little word-of-mouth from one of its original customers -- former Los Angeles Laker and current Miami Heat star Shaquille O'Neal.

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