Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Can Adidas Catch Nike?

Can Adidas Catch Nike?

For decades now, there’s been one big dog atop the shoe market. Nike has dominated since its first shoe hit the market decades ago. Then came “air” and “Jordans” and the iconic “Jumpman.” Then Bo, Jeter, Tiger, and King James. Fans loved Nike because their favorite players in just about every sport “liked” Nike.


LA Gear, BKs, and Reebok all made a run, the most popular of which may have been the one-hit wonder Reebok Pumps … but here in the United States, nothing could touch Nike.
That wasn’t the story overseas, where Adidas ruled just about everywhere. The direct connection to “soccer” made Adidas the shoe of choice for sports fans across Europe and elsewhere. Over the years, Adidas got a foothold in the US but always maintained also-ran status as Nike continued to stand as king of the mountain.

Those days may be coming to an end. Major competition in the shoe marketplace along with a lack of truly transcendent marquee talent cut into Nike’s dominant position. Brands like New Balance, Reebok, Under Armour, and, yes, Adidas made a strong push. Not strong enough yet, but Adidas has drawn a line in the sand.

It will be a tough mountain for the brand to climb. Nike controls more than half the US shoe market, while Adidas is under ten percent. Single-digit market share will not get it done. Adidas has to do something different, something new and something drastic to capture the attention of a less than enthusiastic shoe market.

The old way to fame and one Under Armour has seen some success with, is to find big-name celebrity endorsements. That’s been the key to the athletic shoe market for decades, and the method still works. So, who can Adidas get?

The company scored a big win when they contracted Houston Rockets superstar James Harden. He may not have the main event status of LeBron James, but Harden is the unquestioned leader of a team on the rise. The Rockets are surging in this year’s NBA playoffs, and, though no one is picking them to go all the way, they are definitely getting a lot of screen time and headlines. And Harden is at the center of all of that.

Then there’s Von Miller, lynchpin of Denver’s Super Bowl 50 winning defense, Miller is a good name to have on your team … but he’s also not quite at the top of the star power in the league. That’s not to say he couldn’t get there. It’s just tough for a defensive player to have the same product push that a Bo Jackson, Adrian Peterson or Tom Brady might have.

As a point of comparison, Nike has LeBron James and Christiano Ronaldo. Meanwhile, Under Armour has Steph Curry, another top NBA talent who is a huge star … but not quite on the level of James or Kobe Bryant or Air Jordan before him. So, that’s the challenge these Other Guys face when going after Nike. They’re making progress, but running a little slow.


Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

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