Adidas is planning a major shift in strategy for its basketball division, Matthew Kish of the Portland Business Journal reports.
The company will not extend its ~$US36 million per year apparel deal with the NBA after the 2016-17 season. Adidas decided not to pursue a new deal after the NBA opened the bidding to Nike and Under Armour, according to Kish.
Adidas global basketball general manager Chris Grancio told Kish that going forward the company intends to invest heavily in an area Nike has historically dominated — player sponsorships.
Adidas wants to double the number of NBA players they sponsor by 2020, Grancio told Kish, while also increasing the number of college teams that wear Adidas gear.
“We’re going to invest more money in basketball over the next five years than we ever have,” Grancio said.
Adidas lags behind Nike in both the number of total players it sponsors and the stardom of the players it sponsors. LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the two highest sneaker sellers in the league, are both Nike guys. So is Anthony Davis, who’s widely regarded as the next Best Player On Earth. Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Carmelo Anthony are also either Nike or Jordan Brand players.
A major part of this is bad luck. It’s not Adidas’ fault that the two biggest players in its stable, Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard, have seen their profiles shrink in recent years due to injury.
But another big part of it is volume. Since Adidas sponsors so many fewer players than Nike, it has fewer opportunities to have one of its players blossom into the next LeBron James or Kevin Durant. Just look at the disparity:
Adidas wants to take its roster from 70 players to 140 players in the next five years. Since there’s a finite number of NBA players, that means they will have to be aggressive in poaching players from Nike and/or outbidding Nike for players coming into the league.
LeBron has the best-selling signature shoe among active players at $US300 million per year in sales, according to Forbes. Rose, Adidas’ top seller, accounted for $US40 million in sales in 2013. Two other Nike players, Durant and Bryant, outsold Rose’s signature shoe.
With Under Armour also investing in this area (see: last summer’s Kevin Durant negotiations), Adidas’ quest to sign the next LeBron of the sneaker world looks even tougher.
Adidas has experimented within its NBA apparel deal in recent years, most notably (and controversially) with sleeved jerseys. Judging by the shift in strategy, the company determined that it was better off investing in players than trying to find new ways to make money selling jerseys.
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