Francisco Lindor’s relationship with New Balance is changing the way brands work with athletes as global influencers.
This is the conclusion of ESNY’s three-part series looking at the extraordinary relationship between New York Mets superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor and New Balance.
New Balance has used the brand’s relationship with New York Mets’ shortstop Francisco Lindor as the model for its vision for a new type of global ambassador.
Rather than the shallow sponsorships that most companies have, New Balance wants to form deep connections with their partners, involving the athlete in every step of the process.
According to Pat Cassidy, New Balance’s Global Director of Consumer Brand Marketing and Athlete Activation, the brand doesn’t only want to rely on the talent and performance of the athlete on the field, but their personality and values are the centerpieces of the relationship.
“From when we first started working with Francisco back in 2016, he has been part of a select few members of our athlete partner family that we consider our face of brand athletes. I would consider Francisco one of the founding fathers of the new generation of these “face of the brand athletes.”
Cassidy elaborated that New Balance begins each creative process with what they consider to be a continuation of where they first started out with Lindor. They frequently ask questions like “Who are you? Who do you wanna be? What are your goals? What do you want to work in a global sports brand like New Balance?”
Those questions are at the heart of the relationship, but if an athlete wants to be a global ambassador they have to put in the work so that New Balance can put in the investment to make the athlete an ambassador for whatever sport.
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When speaking about the process with Lindor specifically, Cassidy explained that Lindor wanted to be a global ambassador and travel to Japan for the sport and experience the world with the brand.
They ended up going with Lindor to Japan. The player and brand partnered on clinics teaching not only baseball fundamentals but his personal handshakes as well to young Japanese baseball players.
“Really showing that [Lindor] is a person who can relate to people from any background, in almost any situation because he radiates the kind of open, positive energy that people like to be around and that is what New Balance is looking for in their partnerships,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy spoke glowingly about partnering with a player who is just as invested as the company and also has such a unique voice and social media presence. Lindor is just as active as the company’s marketing team in the decision making and marketing of their joint campaigns and is involved in how it all came together.
When choosing athletes to be involved in the brand’s global ambassador group, New Balance views the athlete’s personality and values just as importantly as their expertise in whatever sport they play.
New Balance wants to remain exclusive in who they choose to partner with in this way because they’re looking for individuals who buy in. They want Lindor to be involved with New Balance well beyond his playing days and that’s the same approach they have with any of their athletes
“We need to be selective about who’s the right type of partner for us because those types of people don’t come around all the time,” Cassidy said. “We are always on the hunt for those types of athletes who embody those same ideals and can continue to elevate our brand not only as the best brand in baseball but as a top global sports brands.”
Cassidy doubled-down that their process of identifying a potential partnership with an athlete requires a great deal of homework on the player on and off the field. New Balance wants to make sure they’re partnering with the right person, as well as player. It’s critical to New Balance that the athlete’s values align with those of the brand.
New Balance isn’t looking for influencer endorsements; they aren’t going to simply write a check for someone to wear their product.
“Something that sets New Balance apart from all our competitors is, with the company being private, it affords us a certain level of independence,” Cassidy said. “That allows us to think, operate and act in different ways because of the way we are structured. We look for that same type of independent spark to athlete partners which you can clearly see across the board in Francisco Lindor and everything he does.”