Ever since an Indiana basketball star named Chuck Taylor laced up the first Converse with his name on them in 1932, it has been clear that athlete endorsements are a good way to boost sportswear sales—so it’s not surprising that Adidas wants more of them.
The German sportswear and sneaker maker announced last month that it will increase spending on the sponsorship (paywall) of US athletes, with plans to sign up to 500 athletes in American football and baseball, the country’s top two sports.
That spending is already underway. Yesterday at the NFL Scouting Combine, where the football league’s top prospects show off their strength and speed to team scouts, the German sportswear maker gave out $100,000 to the fastest three athletes wearing its cleats, on the condition that those athletes sign sponsorship agreements beforehand.
That wasn’t the original plan: Adidas apparently had intended to hand out Porsche 911 Carreras with the same cheetah image that’s on their Uncaged Adizero 5-Star 4.0 cleats.
The NFL shot down Adidas’s Porsche offer because of its sponsorship deal with General Motors, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell and others. Quartz reached out to Adidas for comment and will update this post with any response.
The athletes got the better end of the deal anyway, since the cars were valued at only $83,000 retail.
It’s not the first time Adidas has offered up cash to NFL prospects. It did the same thing last year, giving $100,000 to the fastest athlete wearing its cleats in the 40-yard dash. This year marks a more aggressive push into American football for Adidas, no doubt in response to the company’s slide in the US sportswear market, the largest and most valuable in the world.
Back in the autumn of 2014, Under Armour bumped Adidas out of the No. 2 spot (behind Nike), and has since commenced trash-talking Adidas and signing up athletes of its own. Under Armour landed the basketball star Stephen Curry, and recently launched Curry’s signature shoe, along with a promotional video featuring Jamie Foxx invoking Shakespeare and Aristotle. And just last week it announced a deal with Muhammad Ali that will includes an apparel line featuring images of the boxing icon’s face and motivational phrases.
But Adidas isn’t giving up, and sports fans in the US should expect to soon see more of the brand’s signature three stripes on the field.