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adidas + UCF + Marcus Jordan – adidas = ???

morbergIt came as no surprise to learn that adidas and the University of Central Florida ended their eight-year $3 million marketing relationship five years early, last month.

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.

edtriggerThe 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?

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Image by morberg

Image by edtrigger

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8 Responses to adidas + UCF + Marcus Jordan – adidas = ???

  1. Deven Nongbri January 12, 2010 at 11:44 am #

    Yes, adidas is getting a PR black eye by living up to the role of contract-enforcing toughs. They could’ve worked with the UCF program & kept Nike out of the picture. But they didn’t and now Nike will most likely come in as the hero for this program (if they’re smart).

    But keep in mind that the UCF program must have had the Nike folks lined up in case things went south with adidas (which they did). A Division I program doesn’t turn down $3 million without some kind of back-up plan.

  2. Chris Masters January 13, 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    I started following this story months ago as I was a former Regional Manager of TEAM(amateur) Sports for the East Coast at adidas (3 years ago). Part of my responsibilities included overseeing what we called our “Direct” relationships with the larger FBS and FCS schools which ranged from primarily marketing relationships(i.e. Louisville, Northwestern) to a hybrid of sales/marketing relationships(i.e.UCF).

    I tell this bit of history to get to the meat of my comment which is the fact that we encountered a very similar situation with another Division I school during my tenure and we managed the situation completely different.

    The University had a student athlete who had ongoing knee problems which the stud-athlete claimed were a result of wearing adidas footwear at a junior college prior to their transfer. Initially the media(minus social media)ran the story but we quickly managed the situations by providing and exhausting a number of options to the student athlete which included:several conversations with school, coach and athlete to identify the true problem, a number of shoes to choose and went as far as offering custom fitting and building a shoe. We ultimately decided to allow the player to wear “spatted”(which means all logos were covered) shoes of a competitor.

    It showed a willingness to work with the University and the student athlete and get the focus back to what was really important to each party involved: School and coach protected and defended their student athlete, Student athlete was able to focus on school and sport, and adidas still got the revenue from a $110 pair of sneakers plus a stronger relationship with the university which ultimately led to more spending by the school. ALSO NO NEGATIVE MEDIA.

    FYI…the student athlete blew out their knee 2 games in wearing a competitors shoe.

  3. Tinky Pringle January 13, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Seriously? Nike has an army of lawyers writing contracts that undermine other company agreements all the time. If the situation were reversed I don’t believe Nike would tolerate it either.

    The Jordan worship (The greatest basketball player of all time and the worst baseball player of all time) is getting pretty old and Marcus should make his own path for a new generation of players.

    I worked at adidas and am not a great fan of their dismissive business model when it comes to U.S. based sports. They throw money at basketball while grooming Euro minded soccer with solid strategy.

    The only loser is UCF that has lost the leverage of using Nike against adidas for better deals.

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    Branded product is too good. If you are not using branded products then you should start and you should purchase Adidas products which is big brand. Thanks

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