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Gatorade Signs NBA Star Damian Lillard To Multi-Year Endorsement Deal

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The Portland Trail Blazers start training camp this weekend, ending the shortest offseason in NBA history. Five-time All-Star Damian Lillard will arrive with a new sponsorship in tow, after Gatorade announced the guard as the latest addition to its athlete roster Friday morning.

Lillard will promote Gatorade’s Bolt24, which launched last year as a low-calorie drink aimed at athletes for around the clock hydration. The sea salt and watermelon-based drink is Gatorade’s first new product platform in 20 years and features two varieties, Antioxidant and Energize.

Lillard, 30, says he is very aware of Gatorade’s rich history, which was built on the back of another NBA guard, Michael Jordan, and still maintains a commanding 70%-plus market share in the U.S. “It is impressive to sustain that relevance over time,” he tells Forbes.

He wants to be the boost to Bolt24 that MJ was to Gatorade in the 1980s. “It is new now, but there will come a time when Bolt24 is a well-known thing. I saw it as an opportunity to be tied to that history,” says Lillard.

The Weber State grad can afford to be selective with his endorsement deals. The final year of his current Trail Blazers contract is worth $31.6 million, and next season, he kicks off a four-year deal worth $176 million, fully guaranteed. His Adidas signature sneaker line ranks among the company’s top NBA sellers, and his shoe contract is one of the richest in the game. Adidas released the Dame 7 this fall.

Gatorade announced its first Bolt24 athlete endorser for its forthcoming campaign last month, up-and-coming golfer Matt Wolff, who became only the second golfer after Tiger Woods to partner with Gatorade. Wolff, Lillard and still-to-be-announced third athlete will star in a digital and TV ad campaign rolling out this month. Zion Williamson, Jayson Tatum, Paul George and Karl Anthony-Towns are the current NBA players who endorse the main Gatorade brand, while retired legends Jordan and Dwyane Wade, as well as WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donna, are also on the roster.

Lillard raised his off-court game last month with the launch of the Visionary Academy, an annual internship program for a half-dozen underserved students at high schools in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. He is funding the program, which is an extension of his shoe brand’s long-time Adidas Legacy initiative. Lillard says he’s proud of his accomplishments over the last dozen years, including graduating from college, getting a signature shoe and a bloated NBA resume of accolades, but adds: “It was not those things that filled me up; it was what I could do for other people once I got in a position to have an impact and be able to put other people in a better position.”

Lillard averaged a career-high 30 points per game last season and became just the second NBA player ever with three 60-point games in one season, joining Wilt Chamberlain. He finished in the top eight of MVP voting for the fourth straight year. He is after a bigger prize this year. “We are always one of the best offensive teams. Defensively is where we come up short,” he says. “If we can shore up those issues, it will give us a chance to do what we sign up to do, and that is win a championship.”

While Lillard can’t guarantee a championship, his fans can look forward to the release of his fourth studio album “early” in 2021. His rap name, Dame D.O.L.L.A, stands for “Different On Levels the Lord Allows.” Says Lillard, “The music is done, but I want to take more time so it can get the proper amount of attention and the right eyes and ears on it.”

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