Adi­das takes new shot at US mar­ket with NBA Har­den deal


NBA star James Har­den will soon be drib­bling the ball with Adi­das sneak­ers on his feet as the Ger­man sports­wear maker hopes to re­take U.S. mar­ket share from bas­ket­ball gi­ant Nike and num­ber two Un­der Ar­mour.

Sign­ing up the Hous­ton Rock­ets guard in a re­ported 13-year, US$200 mil­lion deal aims to make Adi­das trendy in a mar­ket where it has been caught flat-footed be­fore.

Charis­matic Har­den, 25, known as “The Beard” to his fans and voted the NBA’s sec­ond best player last sea­son, will switch from Nike to wear Adi­das shoes on the court, and its gear in so­cial set­tings, from Oc­to­ber.

Adi­das has stayed quiet about the sum re­ported by ESPN, but con­firms it is tak­ing a big bet on bas­ket­ball.

“His con­nec­tion with the fans is unique and un­prece­dented,” an Adi­das spokesman told AFP, not­ing that the salary will be linked to ath­letic per­for­mance. “He can take the game and our brand to new heights.”

In a mar­ket where teenagers love cus­tom sneak­ers, Adi­das is tak­ing on num­ber one Nike, which al­ready spon­sors su­per­stars LeBron James, Kevin Du­rant and Kobe Bryant.

“Adi­das is chang­ing its mar­ket­ing strat­egy,” said Cedric Rossi, an an­a­lyst at in­vest­ment bank Bryan Garnier.

“It no longer spon­sors the NBA league, but it is back­ing a few key play­ers ... Con­sumers as­so­ciate and iden­tify with these stars much more easily.”

Nike will, mean­while, take over from Adi­das as NBA’s of­fi­cial ap­parel sup­plier from the 2016-17 sea­son.

From then, Adi­das will re­al­lo­cate the US$10 mil­lion a year it paid to the league to in­di­vid­ual play­ers, said Rossi, ex­plain­ing the value of Har­den’s con­tract.

“We must not for­get that it is for about 13 years. In the end, he makes US$15 mil­lion a year.”

Au­ton­omy in the US

Adi­das pulled out its check­book be­cause the stakes are high for CEO Herbert Hainer, who is un­der pres­sure from share­hold­ers.

The sports­wear maker was rel­e­gated last year to num­ber three rank in the U.S. mar­ket, be­hind new­comer Un­der Ar­mour.

Adi­das, a gi­ant in soc­cer-ob­sessed Ger­many, pre­sented a new strat­egy in March for the mar­ket across the At­lantic.

“The United States has al­ways been a prob­lem,” even in the time of Robert Louis-Drey­fus, its for­mer chief, re­calls an ex-com­pany ex­ec­u­tive.

“The view of Adi­das has al­ways been a Euro­pean vi­sion on the U.S. mar­ket ... We never al­lowed the U.S. to work as en­trepreneurs.”

He said this could have in­cluded adapt­ing its mar­ket­ing strat­egy and, for ex­am­ple, in­vest­ing in univer­sity sports.

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