By Barry Janoff
October 6, 2015: Last month, adidas unveiled a deal to become the official outfitter and licensing partner for the Canadian Football League, taking over beginning with the 2016 season a partnership currently held by Reebok, which is a division of the adidas Group.
Also in September, adidas signed a deal to replace Reebok as the official on-ice outfitter for the NHL beginning with the 2016-17 season. In addition, the NHL and NHL Players' Assn. said that adidas would be the official on-ice outfitter for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, scheduled to take place next October.
The aggressive march into Reebok territory continued today with the news that NHL star Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins would sign a multi-year pact with adidas after having previously been with Reebok.
"Adidas and I share the same drive to be the best at what we do. It's an exciting time to be a part of the energy the brand has and the future of the sport," said Crosby in a statement.
According to adidas, Crosby will have a key role in future hockey product creation, appear in marketing campaigns and "represent adidas at major international sporting events and brand initiatives" worldwide.
While some see this as a case of adidas cannibalizing its own division, executives say otherwise.
"People might ask, 'What's the deal with Reebok?'" Mark King, president for adidas Group North America, said during a media event when the NHL and adidas officially unveiled their partnership. "In 2010, the Reebok brand made a pivot out of sport and into fitness. Reebok is about fitness; adidas is about sports, helping athletes to perform better. This is a real opportunity to put the brands in sync.
"This partnership with the NHL is evidence of our comprehensive commitment to the athlete," said King. "Adding the league to our growing icon portfolio — which includes premier athletes and U.S. league partnerships across football, basketball and baseball — is just the start for us."
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman described the move from Reebok to adidas as "seamless," an observation shared by NHL COO John Collins.
"It is more of a logo change and an evolution than a revolution," said Collins. "Adidas is more of a league-performance brand than Reebok. Reebok aspired to that but were never as consistent in their execution."
The Crosby alliance follows by less than a week the official launch of NBA all-star point guard James Harden's 13-year, $200 million deal with adidas. Other adida NBA athletes include Derrick Rose, Andrew Wiggins, Damien Lillard, Mike Conley and Jeremy Lin.
In September, adidas signed NFL all-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a multi-year deal. The quarterback for the Green Bay Packers joins an adidas roster of NFL players that includes DeMarco Murray (Philadelphia Eagles), Jimmy Graham (Seattle Seahawks), Sammy Watkins (Buffalo Bills) and Von Miller (Denver Broncos), as well as six first round picks from the 2015 NFL Draft.
Adidas also recently signed a pact with NHL No. 1 pick Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers.
With the NHL working on building its brand not just in the U.S, and Canada but around the world, the move to adidas makes sense from a business and financial viewpoint.
"Adidas is strong in Europe and places internationally, which gives us more significantly more clout than we had (with Reebok)," said Collins. "Adidas is the exclusive outfitter for authentic and replica jerseys for the eight-team tournament. So now we have 5,000 stores in Europe where we can put NHL or World Cup of Hockey property. That's important."
According to King, “Adding the NHL to our growing icon portfolio – which includes premier athletes and U.S. league partnerships across football, basketball and baseball – is just the start for us. Everything we do at adidas focuses on making athletes faster and we’re ready to bring that attitude to the ice. This is an incredible opportunity to get our most innovative performance products on the world’s best hockey players, on and off the ice, and take the game to the next level.”
Adidas recently lost, by choice it said, its contract with the NBA, which signed a new deal with Nike after adidas opted not to renew a contract that expires following the 2016-17 season.
"A partnership works two ways.," said King. "We pursued (the NBA), but could not come to an agreement. So we walked away."
"I am excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with adidas and have an influence on products that matter to hockey players and all athletes."
Adidas remains the official outfitter for MLS via a deal that runs through 2018.
Regarding its taking over the CFL deal from Reebok, Michael Rossi, president for adidas Group Canada, said in a statement, “With the shift to adidas on the CFL field of play, we’re able to provide CFL players with our best sports performance products, and fans with the authenticity and heritage of adidas as a Global sports brand. It also allows us to sharpen our focus and investment towards building Reebok as Canada’s leading fitness brand.”
Earlier this year, Reebok signed a deal with all-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans, the brand's first NFL endorser since being replaced by Nike in 2012 as the league's official on-field apparel supplier following a ten-year alliance.
Watt said aligning with Reebok "is centered around the goal of inspiring people to push themselves harder and farther than they ever have been before to reach their full potential. Fitness is something that should be important to every person on this planet."
Reebok also has partnerships that include UFC and some of its top fighters, MMA, Spartan Race, Les Mills International and the CrossFit Games.
Financial terms of adidas' deal with Crosby were not released, but the perimeters appear to be greater for the hockey player than they were with Reebok.
"Since I started playing hockey I have had a passion for the sport. I am excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with adidas and have an influence on products that matter to hockey players and all athletes in their training and preparation," said Crosby.
Adidas Goes All In With NHL
Back to Home Page