In what seemed to be a case of miscommunication and disagreement over whether UCF basketball player Marcus Jordan could wear his father Michael’s signature Nike shoes during Knights’ games, adidas, from the outside looking in, missed a huge public relations opportunity.
Last year when UCF told adidas that it was recruiting the son of the aforementioned NBA superstar, school administrators reportedly asked the shoe company’s personnel if Marcus Jordan could wear his father’s Jordan Brand shoes, manufactured by Nike. adidas initially agreed to let the young Jordan wear his dad’s shoes without affecting the status of the school’s agreement with it, but adidas executives changed their minds.
According to a report by Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Daily, on August 28, 2009, adidas and UCF circulated a revised contract with a Jordan clause saying he could wear the family shoe if Nike logos were covered. On October 20, an adidas representative said no exception would be made.
The sponsorship controversy was a heated one in Central Florida and continues to be debated among sports marketing executives. Some said that if adidas allowed Jordan to wear Nikes for a school that had an agreement with the former, others would come to the table with excuses not to wear their shoes. I disagree.
UCF was put in the position to choose to honor a contract that was of great value to its relatively small Division I program, or a player it brought in believing that he would be able to wear the family shoe. While UCF chose to stand by its player, adidas released an up-and-coming athletic program. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the two parties will honor their contract until June 30, 2010.
adidas could have looked like a PR darling by saying the son of arguably one of the most accomplished sports stars of the 20th Century could wear his family shoe and play for the university program of his choice. Instead, the shoe company played tough guy and despite prior permission, which led to Jordan’s signing a national letter of intent to play at UCF, reneged.
Nike is now in a position to where it can not only save the day, but also generate lots of goodwill publicity if it enters into an agreement with UCF to replace the dollars and merchandise that adidas would have provided. Let it stand by one of its top revenue-generating athletes family and provide everything and more that adidas did not. Nike would win in terms of market size and sincerity.
What do you think – should adidas have maintained its agreement with UCF or was it right to sever the relationship?