Youth leagues' brand affiliations generally determine which colleges those players attend. If a player is part of a Nike team, he will usually attend a Nike-sponsored college program. The tendency for long-term relationships is why companies' grassroots presence is so important.
Under Armour, a relative newcomer to pro sports, only has a handful of NBA players under contract but it has ramped up its youth basketball initiatives in the U.S. The company has built an association with one of the country's best youth leagues, the UA Association. The UA is considered to have the same level or better than Nike's grassroots circuit, the EYBL, which regularly sends players to the best college basketball programs and the pros.
Under Armour believes that with Curry as a flagship, and its new relationship with the UA, it will draw an increasing number of great youth players. It is looking to challenge Nike for shoe and apparel supremacy.
Nike has continued to focus on blue chip prospects, and its powerful brand is an attention-getter. But the company's strategy leaves it open to missing someone like Curry who was a late bloomer. Adidas' current strategy is to diversify its sponsorships to as many players as possible and see what hits big (Matt Bonner, a little-used center for the San Antonio Spurs is an Adidas Endorser).
Among the standouts in the UA are seven foot-one inch Thon Maker, Trevon Duval, the top point guard in the country according to many experts, Billy Preston and Josh Jackson, who is regarded as the next LeBron James. The UA recently announced a Steph Curry
AAU team in the Bay Area, instantly making it one of the country's most sought-after teams.