Adidas and Nike are two of the most recognized names in sports gear and accessories, especially athletic shoes, on a global level. So it may be easy to confuse the two brands, but there are actually some very striking differences between these companies.
History and Origin
While both Nike and Adidas are now multinational corporations that operate globally, their history and origins are quite different. Adidas is a German country that is headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Germany. It’s parent company, the Adidas Group, also consists of the Reebok sportswear company, TaylorMade-Adidas golf company and a sizeable share of FC Bayern Munich and Runtastic. The company was founded in July of 1924, by Rudolf (Rudi) and Adolf (Adi) Dassler, and was originally named Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory. It found early success, that was furthered when the company convinced gold-medal sprinter Jesse Owens to wear them in the 1936 Summer Olympics. Due to a misunderstanding between the brothers in World War II, the brothers split their company and Rudi formed a company called Ruda that was later rebranded Puma, and Adi formed Adidas AG, using the first 3 letters of both his first and last name. The brothers entered into a fierce rivalry after the split and never reconciled. After Adi’s son died, the company was purchased by Bernard Tapie (1989) who ultimately could not pay the loan and it was sold again, to Robert Louis-Dreyfus in 2000. Since that time, the company has grown and acquired other interests.[i]
Nike, on the other hand, is an American-based company with its headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon (near Portland) that was established in January, 1964. It was originally named Blue Ribbon Sports by its founders, Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight. It was renamed Nike, after the Greek goddess of victory, in May, 1971. Initially, it only functioned as a distributor for the Japanese shoe company Onitsuka Tiger, now known as ASICS. Bowerman made the first pair for either Otis Davis or Phil Knight-there are conflicting accounts. Once the relationship with Onitsuka Tiger began to sour, the company launched its own line of footwear and went on to capture 50% of the athletic shoe market share in the US by 1980. Since then, the company has gone public and has continued to grow.[ii]
Philosophy and Logo
Nike embraces a core philosophy that defines its brand. It’s centered on the catchphrase “just do it” that puts forth the idea that anyone can be an athlete at top leve3l performance if they are willing to put in the necessary work.[iii] In addition to their famous catchphrase, their logo (the swoosh created by Carolyn Davidson) is recognizable internationally. It was first used in 1971 and was registered with the Patent and Trademark Office in 1974.[iv]
Adidas does not have a memorable catchphrase or message like Nike does, although their official current one is “addidas is all in.” The company has also changed its logo. Initially it was a trefoil logo (resembling a 3 leaf plant), with the company’s name in all lowercase right below it. This was its official logo until 1998, when it was changed to a 3 parallel (and diagonal) bar logo. The motif and font used for the name remained the same.[v]
Both companies have inspired strong customer loyalty to their brand base, but have achieved that in slightly different ways. Nike uses sponsorship agreements as its primary promotional tool, paying top athletes and teams to use their products and promote their design. Currently, they use a diverse list of American endorsees that includes all team uniforms for the entire NFL, many national basketball teams and individual players, as well as some CrossFit athletes and teams. Some of the more notable names include golfer Tiger Woods, gymnast Simone Biles, and basketball players Kobe Bryant, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant, and Kris Humphries, amongst many others. Internationally, Nike also sponsors baseball teams, basketball clubs and national teams, many, many football (soccer) clubs, teams and players. This represents the largest share of their sponsorships. They also sponsor a huge number of college teams.[vi] Historically, they have also sponsored many big name athletes including Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Rory McIlroy and Michael Jordan. In 2015, the company signed an 8-year deal to provide all uniforms to the NBA. The previous supplier had been Adidas.
Like Nike, Adidas has a long-list of sponsorships, but their list is much more diverse than Nike’s (whose primary focus is with the NBA and track stars). Adidas sponsors individuals and teams in a variety of sports including American football, archery, artistic gymnastics, Australian football, baseball, basketball national and club teams, basketball players, basketball associations, boxing, Canadian football, cricket, disc golf, fencing, field hockey, football players and teams, golf, handball, ice hockey, kabaddi, lacrosse, rugby, skateboarding, snowboarding, swimming, tennis, track and volleyball. They also sponsor many college athletic teams. In addition to this, there are some non-athletic individuals and events. This includes artists such as US, Rita Ora, Liam and Noel Gallagher, Justin Bieber, Ciara Harris, Fed Durst, Jessica Simpson, Katy Perry, Korn, Snoop Dogg, Selena Gomez, and Pharrell Williams. The company also sponsors some events, such as the Vancouver Marathon, Boston Marathon, and San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers footrace.[vii] In addition to sponsorships, Adidas also markets through game advertisement, including Commodore Amiga: Daley Thompson’s Olympic Challenge, Sony PlayStation: Adidas Power Soccer, and Commodore 64, ZX spectrum, Amstrad CPC: Adidas Championship Football. Other collaborations include with Jeremy Scott, Adidas Yeezy and Kanye West.[viii]