Paul George’s on-court career was sidelined for much of this season, but not his off-court endeavors.
Officials for CAA Sports, a division of Creative Artists Agency, said none of George’s prospective or current sponsors backed away from the Indiana Pacers’ all-star after he suffered a gruesome leg injury in a USA Basketball practice game last August.
George’s star has been on the rise since he entered the league in 2010. That was put on pause until he returned to the Pacers line-up April 5. Corporate sponsors, it appears, never lost faith during his eight-month rehabilitation.
George kept himself busy during his down time this season filming TV commercials for Papa John’s, AT&T and the American Heart Association.
He also helped design a new line of caps released by New Era—one of George’s existing sponsors—during this year’s NBA all-star game weekend.
Two new Papa John’s commercials featuring George along with an AT&T spot and the American Heart Association public service announcement—which also features his mom, a stroke victim—all began airing this month.
And while it might appear George and the sponsors planned the release of the commercials to coincide with his return to the court, in fact they were planned months in advance, when it was still unclear when he would return.
While some were speculating George wouldn’t return this season or might never return due to the seriousness of the injury, he signed a deal with Bleacher Report to film a documentary of his recovery.
Not all athletes, even high-profile ones, are fortunate enough to have their sponsors not only stick with them during injury but also continue to put them in the spotlight when their future is anything but certain.
Even quarterback Peyton Manning—who has done more commercials than just about any athlete—disappeared from commercial appearances when he dealt with a season-ending and potential career-ending injury during the 2011 season.
Thankfully for Manning, he was able to resume his career in 2012.
Manning only returned to commercial prominence when it was clear his playing career was back on track.
Perhaps because of his relative youth—along with his overall appeal—sponsors seemed more willing to gamble on and stick with George. And now it appears that gamble is paying off.