Just Do Everything: Nike’s Domination of the Uniform Industry
Take any class about statistics and you’ll always learn one thing: correlation does not equal causation. Yet take a look at the latest champion of all major sports leagues and what do the majority have in common? They’re all outfitted by Nike. Of course, a uniform has very minimal to do with how an athlete actually performs to their potential; the ability of an athlete is not changed whether they have on a Gildan t-shirt or an Adidas tracksuit, though aerodynamics and such do slightly come into play while looking at the exact specifications of a uniform being manufactured. The main point is Nike’s marketing strategy: winners wear Nike.
College sports are outfitted independently by school. Unlike professional sports, there is no contract binding every school to one outfitter, and over the years we have seen an increase in diversity of uniform. One thing hasn’t changed though: winners wear Nike. In this year’s playoff bracket off Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma and Clemson, all 4 teams are worn by Nike. This is not only effective marketing for the brand that all the best teams in sports wear Nike, but also every championship shirt that comes after the big playoff win is also produced by Nike, and therefore goes straight into their revenue stream. Regardless of what team would have won this year, Nike would still be generating cash flow as they outfit some of the greatest teams in the sport. Out of the last 10 winners of BCS National Championship, though 5 of them were Alabama, only one single school has not been outfitted by Nike. Auburn, who won the trophy in 2010 and quarterback Cam Newton won the Heisman, is a school outfitted by Under Armour, an up and coming brand in the sport. Other than that, Ohio State, Clemson, Florida State, Oklahoma and Florida are all schools that rock the swoosh, and also create some of the best players the sport has seen. Of course, many schools vary; some schools like Nebraska and Mississippi State wear Adidas, some like Wisconsin and Northwestern wear UA, and even UNC wears Jordan, though Jordan technically is a brand of Nike and still creates revenue for them. It also helps when teams like Oregon and Ohio State have alternate uniforms for games as it creates hype around rivalries and special events, which in turn creates a desire for fans to grab the limited-edition merchandise, the perfect marketing ploy to bring money back to the brand.
The NBA gave Nike a giant brand deal this year as Adidas did not look to resign after 11 years, and now Nike is in an 8-year contract with the league. Not even a year into the deal and Nike is already doing what Nike does best: selling. The tactic when a brand deal takes over a whole league is not to be the champion, as no matter who wins the brand will be represented. Innovation comes into play when trying to keep fans interested in the brand, making something special to keep up sales. The “statement” jerseys Nike has produced for the NBA this year are absolutely electric, and that’s just a look at the regular gameplay jerseys. Nike has also produced insane special edition jerseys for some teams, from the Heat’s “Miami Vice” jerseys, paying homage to the old Miami arena and looking fly while doing it, to Toronto’s “Welcome OVO” jerseys, along with a custom matching “Welcome Toronto” court. If there’s one thing Toronto loves more than having a sports franchise that is good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to win them, it’s Drake. Nike knows exactly how to capitalize on the niche of each city; people are always going to buy their teams jerseys and merchandise, but making a custom jersey that represents who the people of the city are is the simplest marketing scheme to make the most out of their brand deal.
What do Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps and Neymar Jr. all have in common? They’re all Nike athletes. It’s one thing to be a sponsored athlete; most athletes do have sponsorships in their sport as they need funding to compete, and if an athlete is half decent it’s easy to land a deal. Yet to have the best of the best in almost every sport wearing your clothes? That’s another thing. Federer turned pro 20 years ago, and in that time has won eight Wimbledon titles, 5 Australian Open titles, 5 US Open titles and one French Open title. Only 8 men have captured a Grand Slam in their career, and RF is one of those, only adding to not only his dominance but Nike’s too; he wears them in every match of his, even creating his own line with the brand, which inspires young tennis protégées to dress like him and hopefully play like him too. Serena Williams is the only tennis player in history (man or woman) to have six title wins in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments, and the only player ever to have seven wins in two of the four Grand Slams, hers coming from Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Her and her sister Venus also have competed in doubles titles 14 times, and won all 14. Only three people have ever won at Augusta National in back to back years. Who was one of them? None other than Tiger Woods himself. He’s also had multiple wins at all of the majors, while some golfers only dream of maybe getting one major win on their resume during their career. Michael Phelps is one of the most decorated swimmers of all time, and Neymar Jr. is arguably the best player in soccer right now, playing for both Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil, teams both outfitted by Nike, and both dominant in the futbol world. Every single one of these athletes is at the top of their sport, and has secured their place in history, with the swoosh right behind them every step of the way.
To say that a uniform doesn’t change an athlete is fair; their athletic ability comes from hours of dedication and practice, and playing a sport is a full-time job for professional athletes. Yet when Tom Brady goes for his 6th Super Bowl title on February 4th, the Nike swoosh will be sitting on both of his shoulders as he throws TD pass after TD pass. Nike is not only the main outfitter for most championship athletes, but they also know how to market to those who aren’t pros. Creating special edition jerseys, or letting athletes create their own collections so kids who want to play just like them can wear their clothing is genius. Winners wear Nike, your favourite player wears Nike, what other reasons does one need to rep the swoosh? The next time you’re wondering what type of shoes to purchase, or what type of compression shorts will be best to hit your deadlift PR in the gym, when you see that Nike logo staring you down, just do it.