Nike is one step closer to outfitting the NBA

Nobody liked those sleeved jerseys anyway.
Nobody liked those sleeved jerseys anyway.
Image: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
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In a couple years, America’s professional basketball players will no longer be wearing Adidas jerseys. The German sportswear giant announced today that it won’t bid to renew its National Basketball Association (NBA) sponsorship once it expires in 2017.

“We have decided to not renew our partnership as official outfitter of the NBA after our current contract expires following the 16-17 season,” the company said in a statement.

Most likely that means the contract will go to Nike or Under Armour, the two companies best situated to take over the deal. They would be vying to outfit a sport with millions of viewers and huge influence over the US sportswear market, which is by far the world’s largest. The US basketball sneaker category alone is worth about $1.8 billion.

While Nike has more money to spend, Under Armour hasn’t shied from meeting Nike head on. Earlier this year it unveiled its Curry One basketball sneaker, a direct competitor to Nike’s dominant Jordan brand. It also just moved into the number two spot in the US sportswear market, edging out Adidas. Nike is still the king and will be for some time, but Under Armour may seek to assert itself as a real competitor in the market by going hard for the NBA sponsorship.

Adidas suggested that the NBA deal wasn’t helping it to reclaim that number two spot, and that individual sponsorships might be more productive. “While we have enjoyed a successful long-term relationship with the league, we continually review our partner agreements to ensure they are meeting our investment and delivering on our brand and business needs,” it said. Instead, the company will focus on other areas, including “doubling our roster of professional athletes to authenticate our brand on-court.”

That plan is already underway. The company is trying to recruit US football and baseball players with tactics such as giving cash to top prospects that sign with it (when it can’t give away Porsches).

If Adidas wants to go after the National Football League (NFL) contract, it’s going to have to wait a while. Nike just renewed its contract that was to finish in 2017 for another three years (paywall).