Sunday
Feb082009

Q&A: Candace Parker

Not many players in basketball history can claim to have been rookie of the year, MVP, member of a gold medal winning Olympic team and the star of a global marketing campaign. But Candace Parker can.

By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor, NYSportsJournalism.com
(Posted Feb. 8, 2009)


Candace Parker had a golden year in 2008, and then some. In April, she helped lead the University of Tennessee to its second consecutive national women's NCAA Division I basketball title, and was named "most outstanding player" in the Final Four for the second consecutive year. She then was selected by the Los Angeles Sparks as the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft. In Beijing last summer, she helped guide the US women's basketball team to a gold medal at the Summer Olympics. Among her collegiate accolades in 2008 were the Wooden and Naismith awards. Following her rookie season with the Sparks, during which she averaged 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, she was named both rookie of the year and MVP. Parker's endorsement deals include Gatorade, McDonald's and adidas, and she currently is the face of the U.S. segment of adidas' "Me, Myself" campaign, which includes a dedicated Web site where three women will be selected to appear in the marketing effort alongside Parker. She is represented by Goodwin Sports Management. The hoops star and her husband, Shelden Williams of the NBA's Sacramento Kings, currently are expecting their first child. She shared her thoughts with NYSportsJournalism.com.

NYSportsJournalism.com: What was your reaction when adidas described the theme of the "Me, Myself" campaign, and how do you think the campaign itself looks and succeeds in speaking to women?
Candace Parker: I was very honored to be the face of this campaign as I truly believe in the "Me Myself" message. This campaign speaks to all women because it demonstrates that whether you train professionally as a basketball player or enjoy recreational tennis, we all face the same challenges and triumphs. Adidas succeeds in delivering this message because it relates all women to each other no matter the skill, level, or age of the athlete.

NYSJ: You had a great college career and you were named MVP and Rookie of the Year in the WNBA, but put your career into context of being part of a global marketing campaign that also includes Ana Ivanovic, Iridia Salazar and Miwa Asao?
Parker: I am excited to be a part of a campaign that represents a wide spectrum of athletes from different backgrounds and at different points of their careers. We all are similar in that we play our sports with a great passion and commitment while maintaining our femininity in the process.

NYSJ: How much input have you had into the design, styling and marketing of the adidas shoes and clothing you wear?
Parker: Adidas has arranged numerous meetings to get my feedback and ideas concerning the "Me, Myself" product. With me being new to the adidas team this summer, I did not really get a chance to help design and style from scratch with the spring '09 season. The clothes and shoes that I wear I definitely like and think are fashionable. I am big on colors and matching, but also on durability and how comfortable a specific product is to train in. I am more than satisfied with my apparel and I look forward to having a much larger role in the style and design process in the future.

"It is not so much the endorsement companies or the [female] athletes that have to change. It is the perception of female athletes by the consumer."

NYSJ: You have strong marketing alliances, but there are far fewer female athletes than men who top $10 million a year in deals (the Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova and Michelle Wie among them). Does Madison Avenue have to change its mindset to use more women athletes or do the athletes themselves need to do more?
Parker: As time has gone on, more and more female athletes have received greater endorsement deals as a result of the acceptance through time of women in sports. It is not so much the endorsement companies or the athletes that need to change; it is the perception of female athletes by the consumer. More young girls idolize and look up to female athletes than ever before. Lucrative endorsement deals for female athletes are happening more and more and will continue as womens sports steadily evolve.

NYSJ: What is life like as a hoops star in Los Angeles, where basketball icons include Kobe, Magic and Kareem?
Parker: My first season in L.A. was exciting. I enjoyed playing basketball in a big city where losing is definitely not tolerated. From the Galaxy all the way to the Dodgers, Los Angeles expects championships. I hope to bring many championships to the L.A. Sparks. What makes players like Kobe, Magic, and Kareem so iconic is they are all winners and because they raised banners, the city of Los Angeles respected them and their names became iconic.

NYSJ: What has it been like being a teammate and friend of Lisa Leslie (who said she will retire following the 2009 WNBA season)?
Parker: The opportunity to play alongside Lisa Leslie has definitely benefited my career and knowledge for the game. Lisa is one of the greatest to ever play and through her advice and guidance she allowed me to avoid many obstacles that I would have unknowingly faced. As a teammate, she is a motivator and competitor every day. Lisa immediately took me in as more of a little sister. My first few weeks of training camp included oatmeal compliments of Lisa. She taught me things that I did not know, but also reminded me to do the little things daily. Lisa is a great teammate and friend that helped my rookie season go smoothly.

NYSJ: You won't return to the WNBA until late in the season, but what do you predict for the Sparks and the WNBA in 2009?
Parker: I believe great things are in store for the Sparks in 2009. We were so close last year to reaching the finals that it gives us motivation to build on all our mistakes and struggles, but better our strengths for this upcoming season. We will be a better team this year and I truly believe that we will be in the hunt for a WNBA championship.

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