New Contracts

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love signs deal with Banana Republic

Banana Republic is hoping to score some points with its first brand ambassador, Kevin Love of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

The struggling brand — which reported on Thursday an 11 percent decline in February’s same-store sales — unveiled a deal with Love to wear its men’s clothing off the court.

Apparel companies are increasingly aligning their brands with pro athletes to elevate their image and get away from the deep discounting that’s plagued the industry over the past year.

“Celebrities, models and athletes are becoming driving forces as apparel companies spend money on their brands with a young personality that people want to emulate,” said Nomura analyst Simeon Siegel.

Also on Thursday, Express Inc. said slugger Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs is the new face of its brand, following the end of its deal with Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors.

Banana Republic, the worst performer of Gap Inc.’s brands — which include its namesake, Old Navy and Athleta — needs a boost after a year of “fashion misses,” according to Gap Inc. Chief Executive Art Peck.

But some industry experts questioned why Gap didn’t secure a deal for its women’s merchandise, which accounts for more than 65 percent of its revenues.

“It’s women’s that is the big problem and where the style issues were,” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners.