Sports agent Rich Paul has spent years helping athletes such as LeBron James ink sponsorship deals with major brands. Now he is putting his own stamp on a line of products.

New Balance Athletics Inc. has tapped the high-profile executive to customize and launch a shoe and apparel collection. The collaboration comes as the athletic apparel company, which describes itself as a challenger brand, aims to appeal to young consumers and stand out amid a sea of celebrity endorsements at sneaker companies.

“The collaboration industry has become increasingly saturated, particularly over the course of the last 36 months,” said Chris Davis, chief marketing officer at New Balance. “We have to take a different approach.”

Rich Paul has gained prominence in recent years due to his high-profile client list and business ventures such as Klutch Sports Group.


Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Some consumers in the past may have associated New Balance with “suburban dad style,” Mr. Davis said. But the company in recent years has rejiggered its marketing strategy to become more relevant to millennial and Gen-Z customers, he said.

Nontraditional collaborations have played an outsize role in the strategy, including partnerships with up-and-coming fashion brands like Staud and Bandier as well as individuals who hadn’t previously collaborated with any brand, such as the actress Storm Reid and Mr. Paul.

Traditional celebrity endorsement deals still play a major role in marketing brands like


and Adidas. Nike’s lifetime endorsement deal with Mr. James is among the most notable. But marketers in recent years have also warmed to tie-ups with social-media influencers and YouTube creators.

“This couldn’t have been done five years ago,” said Mr. Paul of his New Balance deal. “CEOs and CMOs of companies weren’t thinking the way they are thinking now.”

Mr. Paul serves as head of United Talent Agency’s sports division and chief executive and founder of Klutch Sports Group. UTA invested in Klutch Sports Group in 2019. He attributes the rise of nontraditional brand endorsement deals to the ascendance of social media, which created an opportunity for people to express themselves and resonate with certain audiences.

“Prior to that there was a very subjective point of view on who could actually market a product,” Mr. Paul said.

The new collection includes a custom design for New Balance’s 550 Colorway shoe, as well as a line of apparel bearing the New Balance logo and Mr. Paul’s initials. It will be sold on New Balance’s website as well as the e-commerce site Klutch Shop starting Dec. 10.

Mr. Paul will not be compensated for the collaboration, and any revenue from the New Balance products sold on Klutch’s site will be donated to charity, he said.

He’s partnering with New Balance to inspire young people and show them that they don’t have to be famous athletes or conventional celebrities to be successful, Mr. Paul said.

Mr. Paul is among a crop of agents who have become famous in their own right due in part to their high-profile clients, friends and relationships, a group that also includes Maverick Carter and Scott Boras. Mr. Paul is currently in a relationship with musician Adele.

The company uses sales figures for its limited-edition collaborations as one measure of success, but also gauges their impact on its brand by watching traffic to its website, mentions in the media and search rankings, Mr. Davis said.

Write to Alexandra Bruell at

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