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London 2012 Watch: Sponsorship Friction Rises Between Nike and Adidas

Posted by Mark J. Miller on March 8, 2012 04:01 PM

The Olympic creed states that “the most important thing … is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.”

Well, that’s just fine for the athletes, but for Nike and Adidas, they are looking not just to fight well, but to conquer.

Business Review Europe reports that “relations between the sportswear giants (are) even more frosty than usual over their access to leading Olympic stars including Paula Radcliffe, Mo Farah and Mark Cavendish.”

The problem stems from the fact that Adidas is an official London 2012 sponsor, and doesn’t want to be giving Nike any kind of free publicity.

In the past, there has been a gentleman’s agreement made between the two sides to allow athletes to get their medals with their own sponsors’ shoes on their feet, but the growing acrimony has kept that from happening this time around.

“Both companies are understood to be resisting attempts by the other to force athletes to break existing long-term footwear contracts in order to comply with team (uniform) requirements in London,” Business Review Europe notes.

Brits Farah and Radcliffe are sponsored by Nike year-round, but Team Great Britain is sponsored by Adidas. Meanwhile, the U.S. team has Nike as its sponsor but has plenty of athletes who are individually sponsored year-round by Adidas, Reebok, Puma, and others.

“Both the American and the British teams (are) insisting publicly that they will compel athletes to don full team (uniforms) on the podium,” the site notes, meaning that the athletes will be made to wear Adidas shoes if Adidas sponsors the team.

The British and U.S. teams have been hoping the two sides can come to some kind of agreement before the Games get underway, but things aren’t looking great right now.

Despite signing on as an Olympics partner and the European soccer championships this summer, Adidas is somehow expecting a sales slowdown this year, Reuters reports. “The company said on Wednesday sales growth would slow to 5-9 percent on a currency-neutral basis from the 13 percent reported for 2011.”

Adidas and Nike don't have long to sort out their differences: Some 8,000 Torchbearers carrying the Olympic Flame across the world arrive in the UK on May 18th.

At top, Phillips Idowu of Team Great Britain; below, a look back at the Adidas/London 2012 Olympic sponsorship announcement in 2008:


Deborah Budd United States says:

Remember the days when the Olympics were about sport, not sponsors? Too much focus on the brands could backfire on big name sponsors who are too obviously all about their own profit goals. For many Olympics fans, advertisers just get in the way of what the Games should be about - the drama of hundreds of amazing athletes performing at their peak. The IOC leads the brand parade with its copyright obsession. Since the advent of big corporate sponsorship of the Games, transparency has revealed the ugly truth - the Games have stopped being about amateur athletes, and the money involved now supersedes the celebration of sport.

March 9, 2012 11:15 AM #

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