MIAMI BEACH — Dwyane Wade sat forward in his chair, listening intently to the report about how quickly the first small batch of his Li-Ning basketball sneakers that were available in the United States were gobbled up by consumers. On average, a pair was gone every eight seconds.
Wade leaned back, obviously thrilled at the news. A week later, Wade returned to his “real job” with the Miami Heat, the two-time defending NBA champions, for the opening of training camp in the Bahamas, followed by preseason games. But, as one of the last official duties of his offseason, Wade spent eight hours inside a hotel meeting room one recent day surrounded by about 35 people representing most of the companies that he’s currently aligned with business-wise.
They called it the “Brand Wade Summit,” a glorified strategy session where all his partners pretty much offered the same assessment: When it comes to Wade these days, business is not just good but booming.
“There’s a library of words that come to mind when you talk about Dwyane Wade,” said Josh Shaw, founder and president of Mission Athletecare, one of the companies Wade works with. “He is the complete package. I work with 22 athletes. We’re an athlete-owned company. We hand-select athletes we want to work with, just as they hand-select us, and Dwyane is far and away the highest-caliber athlete I’ve ever encountered.”
Wade will make about $18.7 million this season with the Heat and is estimated to make nearly as much each year off the floor. The list of companies that he’s aligned with now is as diversified as his personal portfolio. He’s selling $15 ties with one firm and socks with another but also promotes high-end watches and luxury cars with South Florida dealer The Collection.
Most consumers would recognize some of the companies he has deals with, such as Gatorade, Pepperidge Farm and Dove. Others, like Mission and Hublot, aren’t perhaps as well known outside of their market reach yet. And those like Li-Ning, Tie Bar and Stance are largely either waiting to break into the U.S. market or are up-and-comers.
“As long as I’m wearing the Miami Heat jersey, basketball will be the engine that runs everything,” Wade said. “When I feel like it’s not, then I’ll have to make a decision. But I’m involved in so much stuff it’s mindboggling to me that I’m able to do it. I’m trying to build my brand in different ways, things that get me excited.”
These days, that largely means fashion.
So not only is Wade involved in the color schemes and designs of the socks and ties that will bear his name; he even has an understanding of the fabrics, price points and a slew of other marketing terms that would have made his head spin just a few years ago.
“He understands being on the cutting edge of fashion, which is our passion, as well,” said Anand Shah, Tie Bar’s CEO.
With Wade, the socks are bordering on an obsession. He’s long been a sock critic in the Heat locker room, often lauding those who are successful at wearing something other than standard blue or black dress ones. He has some coming out later this year depicting last season’s Heat championship run and the company he’s paired with there – Stance – says it’s on track to triple its sales this year.
The summit was about as comprehensive as it could be, with both the companies he works with and the people who work for him coming together to talk about what’s looming for Brand Wade. His Wade’s World Foundation provided an update on its goings-on, as did digital marketing agency Factory Interactive, his style director Calyann Barnett, his representation from CAA Sports and Rubenstein Communications, his public relations firm.
And everyone gets a voice. An upcoming project brought on about 30 minutes of discussion, most of the idea exchange coming from parties that have nothing necessarily to do with the yet-to-be-announced item.
“The part I love about it is knowing the people who I partner with, they’re putting in the work so that I can be my best for them,” Wade said. “But to sit back and hear all the good things, that is one of the most uncomfortable things for me.”
As the day was winding down, Wade walked slowly to the middle of the room, all eyes on him. Someone who plays basketball before 20,000 often-hostile people regularly should have had no trouble handling this crowd. But as Wade grabbed a microphone, he seemed a tiny bit nervous, even as he was just giving what amounted to a four-minute “thank you” speech.
“It never gets comfortable hearing about yourself, even though people think I’m a narcissist,” Wade said. “It never gets comfortable hearing someone talk about you like you’re not in the room. That’s weird, guys.” Maybe so, but for him, it’s also necessary. “It’s a long day,” Wade said. “But it’s a big day for me as well.”