Apple’s acquisition of Beats by Dre gives it more than just an in-house line of headphones and a fledgling new music streaming technology. It gives Apple an instant foothold in the NBA market, a first for the company, which has previously shied away from major sports partnerships or marketing. Beats headphones are visibly popular among NBA players, and they can often be seen wearing them while getting off team buses and walking into team facilities – and now those products will be publicly associated with the Apple brand. But will Apple be able to capitalize?
Despite the widespread usage of Beats by Dre headphones among NBA players, there is no official deal in place. Apple must factor in Samsung’s consistent habit of making a counter-move to Apple’s every move. Apple’s acquisition of Beats may prompt Samsung to acquire a competing hip hop-branded headphone company such as SOUL by Ludacris for instance, which Samsung could then attempt to get into the hands (and onto the heads) of pro basketball players through individual or league wide partnerships. If Apple wants to prevent such a counter-move from happening, it may need to work to give its Beats headphones some degree of official NBA presence.
But that would represent entirely new territory for Apple. Sure, it’s run plenty of Super Bowl ads over the years. But it’s Samsung, not Apple, which has worked hard to cultivate branding partnerships with pro athletes including LeBron James and others. This time around, Apple may need to think more like Samsung for once if it wants to make its Beats by Dre investment pay off.