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How an NBA Trainer Scored His Own Global Puma Shoe Release

Celebrating the self-care mantra “Love Yourself,” the mismatched black and white pair from Chris Brickley will also be released throughout Asia and Europe.  

As someone who works with a high volume of NBA and WNBA players, many of whom boast their own signature shoe, how did skills trainer Chris Brickley get his own personal sneaker launch? It’s a common question I see online and something Brickley addressed before his second iteration this week with Puma – a detailed, mismatched black and white All-Pro Nitro.

“NBA players get a sneaker deal because they can influence basketball fans and regular people to want to buy a sneaker,” Brickley said. “I have that same influence, except I’m in a different category of the game. It’s a different lane within basketball, but my influence is still the same as a basketball trainer.

“I like to think that the same way an NBA player gets a sneaker deal and the reason why they get it — I hold that reason also.”

Chris Brickley Puma
The details incorporated into Brickley’s newest Puma shoe.

Since he first signed with Puma ahead of the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend, Brickley has been one of the most ever-present and consistent ambassadors for the company’s re-emergence in hoops that began during the summer of 2018. The signing also pointed to Puma’s outside-the-box approach to not following the standard brand playbook. 

Thanks to the power of social media and his @CBrickley603 Instagram account, Brickley has proven to be just as, if not more, impactful in promoting his orbit of brand partners as many of the 450 players in the Association. His 2.3 million followers on Instagram would place him among the Top 40 most-followed NBA players. That’s ahead of stars and sneaker headliners like Anthony Edwards, De’Aaron Fox, and Jamal Murray. 

His ongoing volume of IG feed posts highlights different Puma shoes he’s wearing on and off the court, along with how he can creatively and uniquely position Puma. As a featured character within the NBA 2K video game, his head-to-toe Puma-clad avatar trains players in the game at “Brickley’s Gym.”

Chris Brickley Puma

Puma logos are everywhere, all year long, on his page.

A year ago, he launched a few thousand pairs of his first release on Puma.com and at the brand’s New York flagship store. The New Hampshire license plate-inspired Rise Nitro sneaker in salmon and light blue sold out in less than an hour. 

A month after the launch, brand execs relayed to Brickley during an hour-long Zoom call that not only was the first shoe a success, but they wanted to go even bigger on a follow-up launch. 

“There were some real big moments,” beamed Brickley. “Cooper Flagg, wearing my sneaker in his AAU game, which is one of the only times he hasn’t worn a Nike sneaker. Three or four NBA players wore it in an NBA game. A few big artists wore it. You putting my shoe on your Top Sneakers of 2022 list.

“There were some really big moments that helped to keep this thing going and do a second one.”

(Brickley makes a point to mention that his deeply proud dad printed off a screenshot of the “Top Sneakers” nod, which he has hanging in his house back home in New Hampshire.)

Chris Brickley Puma

This year, his shoe is going global, launching at Foot Locker, Puma, and Dick’s Sporting Goods stores throughout the US, as well as stores in China and elsewhere in Asia, Italy, and throughout Europe. The shoes feature an all-over graphic centered on the theme of “Love Yourself,” with self-motivating phrases featured along the insole and outsole throughout, such as “Keep Going” and “Keep Growing.”

“I wanted it to be an even bigger thing and not just a New Hampshire thing,” Brickley described. “Anyone can relate to the idea that you’re not going to get too far in life, whether that’s in relationships or friendships, if you don’t love yourself first.”

As for the mismatched look, there was a simple starting point to the idea that first caught Brickley’s attention during the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend in Cleveland. 

“It was definitely inspired by LaMelo Ball, for sure. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that,” he laughed. “When he did the Rick & Morty’s, I was like, ‘Damn! This is dope.’ I thought that was one of the bigger moments in sneakers in recent years. I haven’t seen a black-and-white mismatch like this, and it was something I wanted to do.”

Chris Brickley Puma

In addition to the launch worldwide, Brickley will also be teaming up with sneaker boutique Airness in Milan to host a virtual basketball skills clinic for young players in Italy as part of their release. Earlier this summer, Brickley visited the shop and hosted a clinic with Puma as part of a continued push to build their brands together around the world. 

Since signing on in 2019, Brickley has seen the strides the brand has made firsthand, extending well beyond basketball. While on the phone with Boardroom last week from his hotel room in Las Vegas, Brickley was overlooking a Puma campaign takeover of The Sphere and in town for brand activations throughout the massive Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix weekend.  

“In the four years since I was first sitting in that conference room in Boston, seeing the Puma team’s vision with the first Clyde Court shoe, to now seeing the technologies in the sneakers, to how the apparel has grown, and how the roster of athletes has expanded — Puma has grown big time,” he reflects. “I like to think that they’ve helped me grow big time, too, and I’m always thankful for Puma. I’m going to keep being a great brand ambassador. They’ve played a big part in building my brand.”

Chris Brickley Puma

What started as a unique shoe deal on par with an NBA Draft pick’s multi-year format and compensation has since ballooned into a portfolio of over a dozen deals for Brickley.  

“Puma gave me the platform,” he added. “Having a sneaker deal is such a big deal, and it’s given me the platform to get deals like Bose, Wilson, 2K, Therabody, and Body Armour. I would like to think that Puma is the main deal that puts me in a different category that allows me to build around it.”

The deal structure and outside-the-box approach to what it means to add brand visibility and influence has also represented a shift in the marketplace. We’re now seeing other trainers sign on with footwear brands. Shoe companies have positioned budgets away from signing on just any NBA player and are looking into more creative ways of spending, whether that be NIL athletes, influencers, musicians, or trainers. 

Chris Brickley Puma

“It’s 2023, going into 2024, and sneaker deals are hard to get,” Brickley continued. “I’m mindful of that. Them trusting a trainer, and putting me in some of their campaigns and giving me a platform to show who I am and what I believe in, has been an amazing partnership.”

As Brickley sees it, he represents the evolution and expansion of the basketball business and the footwear industry that surrounds it. The marketing ecosystem now includes everything from an agent launching his own shoe with New Balance, a trainer who’s locked in with Puma, and even a writer who’s found a niche within the sport, covering something as specific as shoe deals.

“You can easily put together Rich Paul, me, and you,” Brickley told Boardroom. “There’s a group of people that are making lanes for the youth to look up to, follow, and realize, ‘OK, I can’t become a player maybe, but I can do this, and I can still be a part of the world of basketball.’

“That’s one of the dope parts of the way the basketball community has grown now.”

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About The Author
Nick DePaula
Nick DePaula
Nick DePaula covers the footwear industry and endorsement deals surrounding the sporting landscape, with an emphasis on athlete and executive interviews. The Sacramento, California, native has been based in Portland, Oregon, for the last decade, a main hub of sneaker company headquarters. He’ll often argue that How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days is actually an underrated movie, largely because it’s the only time his Sacramento Kings have made the NBA Finals.