NBA laces up adidas for 11-year partnership

Updated: April 18, 2006, 10:40 AM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

The NBA and shoe and apparel giant adidas announced an 11-year partnership early Tuesday in London that will make the brand the league's official uniform and apparel supplier.

The deal, which sources peg at a total value in excess of $400 million, replaces the 10-year contract Reebok negotiated with the league in 2001.

AdidasDavid Stern and Erich Stamminger shake on a deal that makes adidas the official uniform and apparel supplier of the league.

In January, adidas acquired Reebok in a $3.8 billion deal that bolsters its effort to overtake Nike, which is the worldwide market leader. When the merger was consummated, the NBA was allowed to open negotiations on a uniform and apparel deal to competitors. But NBA commissioner David Stern said the league's previous relationship with Reebok made the new partnership with adidas a foregone conclusion.

"We went right to the terms of this new agreement," Stern said. "The adidas presence on a global basis is extraordinary."

For adidas, a 56-year-old German-born brand that is more firmly entrenched in Europe and Asia than in the United States, the deal was a no-brainer.

"The NBA has always been on our wish list," said adidas president and chief executive Erich Stamminger. "In soccer, we have FIFA and UEFA. In baseball, we have the New York Yankees. And in rugby, we have the All-Blacks. Given that our mission statement is to become the leading sports brand in the world, this alliance was at the top of our list."

With Reebok's assets, adidas' share of the U.S. shoe market is 20 percent, compared with the 70 percent held by market leader Nike, whose sales also include the Jordan brand.

Consumers will notice a few changes under the new alliance. Merchandise in the NBA Store in Manhattan, which opened in 1998, will be dominated by adidas products. Non-adidas league-branded merchandise will be approved on a case-by-case basis, Stern said.

"Everything that we do in this partnership will first be executed in this store," Stamminger said. "It will be a way for us to communicate our concepts to our consumers."

Reebok made a shoe with the NBA logo on it, and adidas has plans to go further, with team-branded shoes that will be released on a global basis. Adidas will use its popular Superstar line and try to take advantage of the NBA's extensive and colorful history by releasing lifestyle shoes featuring the league's retro logos and colors, Stamminger said.

As part of the deal, adidas will also have its logos on WNBA, NBDL and replica jerseys. NBA warm-ups and practice gear will add the familiar adidas stripes. However, the adidas logo will not appear on the outside of any official jerseys.

"Having only the team logo and the NBA logo helps reinforce our brand," Stern said. "I won't say it's a 'forever' policy; but right now, those are the only marks that appear on the NBA uniform."

Though adidas has 2,100 franchise stores in China, Stamminger said no athletes, including Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, will be making the switch from the Reebok to the adidas brand.

"Reebok is still a brand very much invested in basketball," Stamminger said. "We didn't consider taking any athlete and switching brands. It just didn't make sense."

Besides Yao, Reebok's big name is Allen Iverson. Adidas' most powerful NBA endorsers include Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Tim Duncan, Chauncey Billups and Gilbert Arenas.

Under the deal, other companies -- including Nike -- will continue to have the right to market their endorsees using the NBA's name and trademarks.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.rovell@espn3.com.

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ESPN.com Sports Business reporter