Biggest Little Sports Column: Tahnee + Nike + N7 = #Winning
By Dan Hinxman
Third-round WNBA draft picks don't get sponsorship deals. Nevada's Tahnee Robinson was a third-round pick on Monday by the Phoenix Mercury, which then traded her to the Connecticut Sun.
She was the first WNBA draftee in Wolf Pack history, but that's not why Nike signed her to a two-year contract soon afterward.
No, this marriage is all about timing.
Nike launched the N7 campaign in 2007. N7, according to its website, is Nike's "commitment to bring sport and all of its benefits to Native American and Aboriginal communities in the USA and Canada."
You'd be hard-pressed to find a marketing campaign that is as noble as N7. And that's more than just a little important to Robinson, who could be found signing endless autographs and posing for photos at the Wolf Pack's Native American Day games the last two seasons.
As Robinson's status as one of the top players in women's college basketball has grown, so, too, has her responsibility. And it's one she takes on fully and with a great deal of pride.
As the first full-blooded Native American to be drafted by a WNBA team, Robinson can take that responsibility to a national audience. And Nike will be riding shotgun.
"They're definitely going to use me to reach out as much as possible, being the first Native American drafted and the first from Nevada," Robinson said Tuesday. "... without Nike, there's no way my story can be heard. I hope to promote N7 more and reach out to as many people as possible."
It's fitting, too, and no coincidence that Robinson ended up with the Sun. The franchise is owned by the Mohegan Sun casino, which is owned by the Mohegan tribe. Nike isn't the only one that understands marketing.
Robinson still must go through training camp and fight for a roster spot. It's no given she'll make the team, but the combination of landing with the Sun and partnering with N7 gives her a foot in the door.