I have been calling Jack Hughes, The Big Deal, because he very much is one. He was drafted first overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He set records with the United States National Team Development Program. He did not commit to a college or make any noise about major juniors because he knew he would be NHL-bound in 2019 and he is with New Jersey now. This afternoon revealed the latest piece of evidence to justify that claim. A press release was sent around announcing that Jack Hughes has signed an endorsement deal with Gatorade. As is usual in this day and age, Hughes himself announced the news through a sponsored video on his Instagram. The video shows Hughes downing some fruit punch-flavored G and participating in photos and video content for Gatorade at the Barnaby Health Hockey House and his locker at the Prudential Center. The fine people at Gatorade clearly recognize the future star power of Jack Hughes and will likely advertise The Big Deal.
Per the release, Hughes had the following to say about the endorsement:
“I want to be at the peak of my game and I want to keep getting better, and I think Gatorade shares the same common goals in trying to make me the best player I can be.”
On the Gatorade side, the Global Head of Sports Marketing Jeff Kearney had this quote in the release:
“At only 18 years old, Jack is already thinking about what he needs to do to be the best player he can be. We’re all about fueling athletic performance, so we look forward to working with Jack, helping him to understand his fueling and hydration needs so he can perform at the highest level for as long as possible.”
The President of the New Jersey Devils, Jake Reynolds, tweeted out his support of the announcement from a NJ.com article by Chris Ryan. Ryan’s article has additional quotes from Hughes and Kearney and makes a pretty important point. Gatorade has intentionally sought out endorsement deals from young professional athletes tabbed to be stars in the future. While they have not dove into hockey that much, their biggest names in recent years include Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane, who are undeniably two of the game’s biggest stars within the past ten to fifteen years. With that in mind, it is significant that the company has decided to make a deal with Hughes among other young players in the league from other markets. Similarly, it is significant that the release noted Hughes as a “generational talent” and mentioned him along other stars such as Zion Williamson, Karl Anthony Towns, Mallory Pugh, Todd Gurley and Sydney McLaughlin. For my entire life as a fan, I recognized and considered many Devils to be stars based on how well they played hockey and how much they succeeded at it for the Devils. As I got older, I realized star power is more than just being excellent at what you do. Endorsements for an athlete is a kind of recognition of that star power and it means something more as it is from collective groups of people who are willing to put money on it. A New Jersey Devil is now getting that recognition and it is Jack Hughes.
This is effectively uncharted territory for a New Jersey Devil. Sure, P.K. Subban has been highly featured and has done work for Bridgestone; but he came to the Devils with those in place. Sure, past Devils players had endorsement deals and did commercials. They had such deals in other countries, too. But with all respect to their respective businesses (e.g. PureHockey), none of them new deals with companies on the level of Gatorade. The closest I can recall is Martin Brodeur’s work with Enterprise, which came well after he was an active player in New Jersey. (If I am missing anything, please let me know in the comments.) Mackenzie Blackwood may have been more known for (lemon lime) Gatorade usage on the current roster but that will not be the case in the future. Hughes will be the one associated with Gatorade and the Devils stand to benefit from this association.
This is mind-boggling in a good way to me, at least. Think of it this way: Zach Parise never had a deal like this. Patrik Elias never had a deal like this. Scott Gomez never had a deal like this. Brian Gionta never had a deal like this. Nico Hischier never had a deal like this. Scott Niedermayer never had a deal like this. As a Devils player, Martin Brodeur never really had a deal like this. And even older (mid-20s) stars like Ilya Kovalchuk or Taylor Hall had a deal like this. Jack Hughes is the one. A New Jersey Devil is going to be featured by a major company in the world of sports and marketing. It is, well, a Big Deal.
It remains to be seen how much, how often, and how long this deal will go. I do hope Hughes blossoms into being a superstar and the relationship also blossoms to a point where it becomes long lasting like their agreement with Crosby. I do hope it gets a lot of play in New Jersey, the New York metropolitan area, and America as a whole so they can all see Jack Hughes in a Devils uniform and can recognize him from more than just hockey highlight clips. I do hope Hughes is good for the Gatorade business as Gatorade will be good for Jack Hughes’ personal business. One thing is for sure, this is news that just does not happen often for an 18-year old hockey player and never really happened before for a Devil at any age. That alone is further evidence that Jack Hughes is really The Big Deal.
Congratulations to Jack Hughes for his first major endorsement and to the Devils, who will at least indirectly benefit from it. What do you make of this news? Does it make you more interested in Gatorade? Or in Hughes? Am I forgetting a major endorsement involving a Devil in America? Please leave your answers and other reactions to Hughes’ news in the comments. Thank you for reading.