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Kevin Durant signs on with fast-food drive-in outfit Sonic as ‘athlete ambassador’


Kevin Durant has added yet another endorsement gig to his burgeoning marketing portfolio after signing on to represent Sonic fast food restaurants as its first athlete ambassador, per an report.

Michael Yormark, president and chief of branding and strategy for the Jay-Z-fronted Roc Nation agency that represents the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar, says it’s a perfect match. The company, while having no affiliation with the Thunder or the NBA, expects to utilize Durant extensively during the NBA playoffs.

“Everything that Kevin pitches comes from an authentic point of view,” he said. “When it comes to grab-and-go food, KD’s a Sonic guy.”

In more ways than one. While it may be painful to recall for basketball fans residing in the Emerald City — as if they ever forgot — Durant actually played for the Seattle Supersonics after the team drafted him with its second-overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. The Sonics of course relocated to OKC and began playing as the Thunder beginning with the 2008-09 NBA season.

Sonic headquarters are also based in Oklahoma City, making Durant an even better fit for the company, which boasts 3,500 restaurants in 44 states with plans of expanding even further in the coming years, according to Darren Rovell.

“We feel really good about this partnership because Kevin is uniquely aligned with what we do and who we are as a brand,” said Sonic chief marketing officer Todd Smith.

The report also notes that Durant will be even more involved than simply appearing in advertisements, commercials, etc. The Thunder star will be charged with coming up with some menu items on his own in the outfit’s new test kitchen. While the standard Sonic fare revolves around burgers, hot dogs and other assorted items typical of fast food eateries, Durant’s culinary creations reportedly will be geared more toward healthier items.

Durant has several endorsement arrangements with big-time companies, highlighted by his lucrative deal with Nike. He also has relationships with SkullCandy headphones and low-fat yogurt franchise Orange Leaf, among many others.

While the notion of a fast food joint having something called an “athlete ambassador” may be somewhat counterintuitive, LeBron James — and Michael Jordan, among others, before him — has made a killing courtesy of his endorsement gig with McDonald’s, to name one instance, so it’s certainly not unprecedented.

Further, professional athletes, even those in the highest demand like Durant, recognize that their attractiveness to companies as a highly compensated endorser can be as fleeting as their careers in sport.

One bad move off the field — as is the case with how one on it can spell doom for an athlete’s professional sports career —  as the likes of Tiger Woods and now Adrian Peterson have learned, can make them virtually worthless to companies. So it makes sense to seize each and every opportunity as it comes, so long as it does not prove damaging to their overall brand.

Endorsement partnerships between athletes and perceptively unconventional entities — as is arguably the case with Durant and Sonic — are becoming more and more common with athletes. One doesn’t need to look any further that LeBron (again) to see how things have changed. After all, King James is now a well-paid pitchman for Kia.