Say goodbye to the Nike swoosh and hello to the Adidas stripes. Beginning in August 2008, Michigan athletics will be outfitted exclusively with Adidas apparel and footwear. Why the sudden change after using Nike gear since 1994? To put it bluntly, it was all about the dollar signs. Michigan will receive a total of $60 million over the next 8 years under the new contract with Adidas, which is double and then some of the previous Nike deal that will end up giving U-M an approximate total of $28 million when it ends on July 31, 2008.
Before getting into what the new Adidas deal means, let’s first look back at the rocky relationship Michigan and Nike have had together since 1994. When the partnership first came about, it really was one of the first of its kind. Having exclusive rights to outfit Michigan athletics gave Nike national exposure and at the same time, put the block “M” and Nike swoosh together. The original agreement was worth $7.1 million and lasted from 1994-2000. It was around this time when problems really started to come up.
University of Michigan students are known for their protests and can pretty much find anything to protest about. Right around the time of renewal of the Nike contract, students against the company came out with the slogan of “Just don’t do it.” After being pressured, U-M supported the Worker Rights Consortium, which called for colleges to check up on the factories that made its apparel. For Nike, that would mean having people look into the sweatshops that existed in Southeast Asia and Central America, where working conditions and wages were not exactly up to great standards. Because of Michigan’s supports for the Worker Rights Consortium, Nike took it as a direct slap in the face and completely ended all talks of a new deal even though only a few small negotiations were left.
Eventually, the two sides worked out their differences, and in 2001, Michigan and Nike agreed on a $28 million contract that lasts until the end of July 2008. Most probably would’ve figured that both parties would renew again and the Wolverines would continue to have Nike everything. However, I’m hearing that Michigan wanted more money and Adidas simply outbid Nike, which makes sense since this is a very large contract.
Michigan now will be in the company of schools like Wisconsin, Indiana, UCLA, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and many others, as they all wear Adidas already. In comparisons to contracts that those schools received, I believe Michigan’s is actually bigger than them all. Money-wise, it is the same as what Notre Dame received ($60 million), but is two years shorter (ND’s was 10 years long), meaning that on a year-by-year basis, it averages out to be slightly bigger.
Now that Adidas is set to be Michigan’s apparel and footwear company, get ready again to hear people protesting. It probably doesn’t come as a shock that Adidas also has sweatshop-like working conditions that caused a stir at Wisconsin just recently. Students were outraged and called for the school to ditch the company completely. After sending someone down to El Salvador to check out the factories first hand, more concern actually came from the trip. Officials saw that Adidas was not up to par with what Wisconsin wanted, and now the problem continues on, although there hasn’t been much news since April that I found on it.
Personally, and I’m sure most would agree, the biggest question raised when hearing this news is how it will affect Michigan’s look on the football field and how it will affect sold everywhere else. I’ve heard many people already saying that they hate this move because Nike is a superior company to Adidas. Some e-mails I’ve received actually question whether this will hurt Michigan in recruiting and in the overall “coolness” factor. Let me just say, this is straight up overreacting. It will take some time to adjust to the new Adidas gear, but to say that it will hurt U-M in the long run is completely wrong. I would say Nike is more recognizable than Adidas, but it isn’t like U-M’s new company is low-rate and doesn’t know what they’re doing. If that was the case, they wouldn’t be paying $60 million to have their logo on Michigan stuff.
As far as the look of let’s say the football team, I was actually wondering about this. Just a few years ago Michigan got new football uniforms. Design-wise, the home ones stayed the same and the road ones changed, but the actual way the jerseys were made was completely new and different. The technology of the new jerseys is way better than anything we used to see and does concern me a bit with what we’ll get in Adidas’ jerseys. On the flip side, I also wonder if the look will change yet again now that Adidas is on board, and I mean more than just taking the Nike logo off and putting an Adidas one on. I doubt the design of the home uniforms will change since there’s nothing necessary to change, but the road unis are a different story. Since Nike added the maize piping to the road jerseys, that will be gone and the look may change. It probably wouldn’t be a huge change, but somewhat noticeably different.
Personally, I think this is a great deal for Michigan because it’s more money. Anything that adds to the bank of the athletic department is a good thing because it means there’s a lesser chance that we have to add more of our own money to it. Sure, Nike is a name known with Michigan athletics, but Adidas knows it will have to do their best to please U-M fans. For all of the people out there that are skeptical of this deal, I would say to just relax. I’ve started to dislike Nike anyways recently because what some of their other jerseys look like for other schools and due to the fact that Phil Knight is so involved in Oregon. I gladly say bye-bye to the swoosh to welcome the stripes. My advice: if you like the Michigan shirts or whatever that Nike makes, stock up over the next year, because come next summer, Adidas gear will be in stores instead.