Stephen Curry and Under Armour still can't break Nike's basketball dominance

Following the success of the Golden State Warriors and two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry, sales of Under Armour’s Curry shoe line and basketball products surged and had people wondering if Nike’s decades-long dominance in the market was starting to erode (albeit from a near hegemony).

Not even close according to Dave Weiner, a retail analyst at Deutsche Bank.

According to Weiner, Nike is still king of the basketball business and the gains made by Curry and Under Armour have been short-lived.

While there was admittedly a slowdown in Nike revenue growth said Weiner, management and tracking data has appeared to show sales rebounding and the biggest source of the rebound is the basketball category.

“We believe a key determinant of management’s planned revenue growth is driven by the basketball category, particularly given easy y/y comparisons,” said the note from Weiner. “While we recognise that Nike’s basketball category (ex. Jordan) is seeing greater competition from Under Armour, Nike has combated the Curry platform’s growing popularity by introducing lower price point models of its KD and LeBron shoes.”

This has allowed Nike to regain market share in the basketball category, back up to 92.3% during the trailing 13-weeks ending August 27 against a 90.6% share in a 13-week period ending May 28, based on SportScanInfo data. Revenues also recovered during that time.

“Directionally, we believe Nike’s basketball category is re-gaining traction in the US,” wrote Weiner.

“On a y/y trailing 13 week basis, Nike basketball footwear sales accelerated from the -2% during the period ending [May 28] to +9% during the period ending [August 27].”

This also underlines the weakness of Under Armour’s current business. With little goodwill among the trend-setting sneakerhead collectors market and the fate of the business tied with the ups and downs of one player (and losing a 3-1 series lead in the NBA Finals is certainly a down), the upstart’s ability to cut into Nike’s market share is tenuous.

It’s clear that despite Curry’s popularity surge, Nike is still the king.

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