Adidas and Nike take their marks
US market leader Nike and German rival Adidas are locked in their own Olympic battle to boost athletes' performance and squeeze maximum value out of next month's Games in London.
The Games provide a showcase for new fashions and advances in technology which sportswear suppliers hope will drive sales at a time of economic turmoil in many markets.
Unlike football’s World Cup, Olympic venues carry no perimeter advertising, making the suppliers of kit and shoes the most visible brands to the Games’ huge global audience.
“This puts the likes of Nike, Adidas and Puma firmly in the spotlight in the most emotionally-charged moments,” said Danny Townsend, a senior executive at brand analysis company Repucom.
“Deals with athletes likely to gain substantial coverage, like Usain Bolt or Jessica Ennis, pack an immense punch,” he added.
“Our projections from the Beijing Games indicate around 3.6 billion people worldwide saw at least some TV coverage which gives a strong indicator to the power of this presence.”
Adidas has invested heavily to be the official sportwear partner of the Games, with tens of thousands of volunteers and Olympic officials to wear its familiar three-stripe outfits.
That comes on top of a long-standing deal to provide the kit for a British team which includes heptathlete medal hope Ennis, the photogenic face of the host nation’s squad.
“We’re kitting out 5,000 athletes and 84,000 volunteers with 3 million pieces of apparel,” Adidas Olympics head Simon Cartwright said at the firm’s headquarters in the small German town of Herzogenaurach. Adidas estimates the interest generated by the Games will bring it an extra £100 million (Dhs577 million) of sales in the UK, helping it move closer to overtaking Nike as market leader there.
Cartwright says the situation is similar to that in Beijing, when the Games helped it to top the market there in 2008.
One sport sponsorship manager notes: “Adidas has got its foot on the accelerator. They’ve thrown down the gauntlet to Nike because they want to take market leadership in the UK. Nike is more focused on Rio 2016.”
US giant Nike remains the global market leader, with annual sales of almost $21 billion against $17 billion for Adidas. Nike’s sales jumped 15 per cent in the quarter to the end of February, while Adidas reported a 14 per cent rise in the first three months of the year. Nike, which sponsors the US Olympic team, says the Games give it the chance to build a buzz around its products.
“Its like a concept car model - we get to debut these innovations on the world’s best athletes,” said Nike UK head of PR and communications Ryan Greenwood.
But as the rivalry between the two firms grows - Adidas roped in big-name designer Stella McCartney to design this year’s British kit - it’s worth noting that neither can lay claim to the likely golden boy of the Games.
Sprint king Usain Bolt wears Puma…