A debate that many fans have across the world is Adidas vs Nike. Both of them have a rich history that has resulted in billions in revenue every year. Adidas and Nike are two of the most influential companies in the world, each competing for their share of the lucrative sports, sneaker, and athleisure market.
Each manufacturer has a different approach in marketing and production, yet both of them found a way to successfully establish themselves as an iconic brand. This article compares these two sportswear giants and we take a look at which one comes out on top.
Adidas vs Nike – Current Market Position & History
Both companies have a long history that allowed them to become the two most competitive sports apparel brands of our time. First off in the Adidas vs Nike debate, we take a look at the history of these two mega brands and where they stand today.
Founded by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight in 1964 and named after the Greek goddess of victory, Nike is the world’s largest sportswear and apparel manufacturer. The American giant was originally intended to be the distributor of Japanese running shoes.
However, after some changes in their productions line and the birth of the iconic “Just Do It” advertisement line in 1988, the company successfully became one of the biggest companies in the world.
These days, Nike is the most valuable brand in the North American market, which is where most of their marketing and sponsorship efforts are focused. That said, in recent years, the competitors have managed to catch up, with Adidas falling not too far behind, even in the United States.
The company’s total global revenues for 2021 were a little over $44.54bn, which was lower than expected, even considering the effects of the global pandemic. Nike is trying to make up for this by continuing its policy of endorsing popular teams and sportsmen.
Adidas was founded in Germany, in 1924 by brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler as a sport-oriented shoe manufacturer. Their goal was to improve performance in any sport, catering to both professional and recreational users.
Initially known as The Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory, the company’s name was changed to Adidas (a contraction of Adolf “Adi” Dassler) when the brothers decided to go separate ways.
Since then, the brand has become the largest apparel and sportswear manufacturer in Europe, its primary target market. Their slogan, “Impossible Is Nothing,” has become of the most well-known catchphrases in sports.
Even though Adidas has a much more challenging job in North America, it’s slowly but surely finding the large audience it needs on this continent as well. Its total global revenue from last year is $24.64bn. Surprisingly, only half of this amount comes from the sneakers themselves.
The rest of the company’s income comes from the sales of clothing and accessories. While Adidas’ revenues are enormous when compared to other companies, Nike is still the clear winner when it comes to sales.
Main Sneaker Silhouettes
In the Adidas vs Nike battle, both can boast some iconic silhouettes that made it into sneaker history. Here are some of the best models they’ve ever made.
Nike Air Force
Introduced in 1982, the Air Force 1 was Nike’s first-ever basketball sneaker. After being featured heavily in hip-hop culture, it has also become a staple off-court. The signature Air Force 1 silhouette boasts a thick rubber midsole and a now-familiar Nike Air unit with the added cushioning for enhanced performance without fatigue.
Nike Air Max
Designed by Tinker Hatfield, this silhouette was first released in 1990 under the name of Air Max III. Also known as the 90, it was intended to be a high-performance running sneaker. However, the sleek design, the unusually large inside Air unit, and the ribbed outsole caught the eye of even those who simply wanted a stylish sneaker.
Nike Air Jordan
Originally released in 1985, the Air Jordan was one of the most popular sneakers amongst the younger generations. As Michael Jordan’s first signature with the company, the silhouette combines the distinctive Nike Swoosh with the iconic Jordan basketball and wings logo. It also features one of Nike’s first high tops designs and a perforated toe box.
Debuting at New York Fashion Week in 2015, The Yeezy Boost 350 has conquered the US market with lightning speed. In collaboration with Kanye West, Adidas created their most comfortable sneakers ever. Like its successors, the original Yeezy features high-tech boost cushioning and breathable knit fabrications in clunky-looking packaging. The success of the silhouette has often had consumers wondering why yeezys are so expensive which is also detailed in our post.
Released in 1969, the original Adidas Superstar is probably one of the most renowned sneakers the company ever made. Apart from being innovative basketball sneakers, the Superstar series has become known for its trendy style. The shell-toe and the iconic Three-Stripe design offers a versatile combination in whichever color you get it in,
Adidas Stan Smith
After the Superstar series, the Stan Smith is the second of Adidas’ most hyped-up silhouettes. Designed for tennis legend Stan Smith in 1965, the sneaker remains the favorite of many. It features a low-cut design, a white leather upper, Smith’s face on the tongue, and, of course, the perforated Three-Stripe branding on its side.
Quality of Clothes
When it comes to the quality of clothes, the two brands stand on an equal level. Users found the clothes from both brands comfortable to wear even in demanding conditions. Both companies make apparel that is both breathable and durable. The only difference is in the quality of design elements.
Adidas makes their modern designs fit more comfortably on the body. Whereas Nike puts more effort into making the clothes more fashionable, not only functional. Another thing to keep in mind is that Adidas offers a better price to quality ratio in general. According to customers, Adidas offers quality clothes for much more affordable prices than Nike.
The principal marketing strategy of Nike has always been based on celebrity endorsement. The company has built a strong network of partnerships with famous athletes, such as they did with Michael Jordan. To cater to consumer demand, Nike focuses on social media branding strategies advertisement campaigns. They are known for positioning the products towards professionals by selling them through creative backgrounds stories.
Their ads feature celebrities and high-profile athletes with a significant number of social media following, which also means a higher ROI (return of investment) for the company. Even their choices of endorsed teams are based on those trending on social media as they promise the most engagement for the company.
Adidas had always leaned towards catering to the needs of their consumers, even in marketing. Instead of investing in endorsements, the company believes in raising value by elevating the quality of its products.
That being said, Adidas still knows the importance of being associated with huge brands. They too have collaborated with well-known sports teams, cultural icons and sports stars.
Adidas constantly re-evaluates and expands based on customer feedback on their technological solutions, usability, quality, etc. Another one of Adidas’ marketing innovations includes the speed models in the supply chain, which further promote good customer-manufacturer relations.
Adidas vs Nike – Sports Sponsorship and Brand Ambassadors
As leading sports brands, athlete sponsorship has been the main focus of both companies. Here are some of the sponsoring activities Nike and Adidas were involved in throughout the years.
When it comes to Nike, the company’s main sponsorship focus has always been on sports stars trending throughout the world. Despite sportswear becoming popular in day-to-day culture, Nike still pushes its products toward the sports lifestyle and performance.
In the 1990s, their adverts sponsored Eric Cantona, among others. They have also featured Ronaldinho and the entire Brazil football team. Since then, Nike has made similarly lucrative deals with other teams such as FC Barcelona and players, such as Cristiano Ronaldo, a lifetime Nike ambassador. With the help of Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova, Nike has conquered tennis courts all over the world.
Nike’s biggest deal of all time has been its collaboration with basketball star Michael Jordan, who also benefited greatly from this endorsement. Since its launch in 1985, the Air Jordan has been in the spotlight due to it becoming an iconic fashion item. Even though Nike tried to shift its focus off from the line, after complaints from customers across the world, the company was forced to restock its sneakers.
Other huge American athletes Nike has worked with are Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James. Nike is also the primary provider of apparel, footwear, and uniforms of the NBA league and several world-scale sports events, including the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics.
While Nike has rarely sponsored non-athletes they were some exceptions amongst the American celebrities. When it comes to the world of hip-hop, rap celebrities such as Drake, Eminem, and formerly Kanye West have aligned themselves with Nike. Actor and comedian Kevin Hart has also collaborated with the brand.
When it comes to the world of sports, Adidas’s main target was and remains, the European market. That said, the company realized the potential of endorsing non-athlete sneaker wearers across the globe early on, and since it’s been steadily growing its presence through celebrity endorsement contracts.
Through their song “My Adidas”, in 1986, Run-DMC openly expressed their loyalty to the Superstar series, and the company’s sales hit the roof on the American market. This prompted the company to offer a lucrative sponsorship to this notorious American hip-hop group. Later, Adidas also designed a clothing line with the Run-DMC logo, which has also been added to the Superstars.
Adidas has also sponsored several major events like the FIFA World Cup, Olympics, and NBA basketball games. In fact, the company is the official partner of the FIFA World Qatar Cup 2022 and is sponsoring several former cup holders, such as France, Germany, Argentina, Spain, and Italy.
Other top-ranking athletes that support Adidas are David Beckham and Novak Djokovic. Adidas’ current non-athlete celebrity athleisure collaboration features lucrative deals with Kanye West Yeezy Line, Beyoncé’s Ivy Park, and the Pharrell Williams Premium Basics collection.
Adidas also sponsors several other artists, including Stormzy, Dua Lipa, and Rita Ora, all featuring their lifestyle products, rather than focusing on the sports brand aspect. In the past, they have also worked with Snoop Dogg, which was another successful attempt in embracing pop- culture.
As the No. 1 in consumers’ perception of innovation, Nike continues to come up with new silhouettes and fashionable design patterns. The success of this strategy with the younger generations is unrivaled. When it comes to the cool factor, a large percentage of men and women would choose Nike over any other sports apparel company.
Some other factors in Nike’s favor are the lightweight materials and the semi-open toecap that makes the sneakers the perfect running shoes. ZoomX technology is probably the latest main innovation Nike presented to the market and is, once again, designed to enhance running speed.
Adidas has also made some innovations, including the Yeezy. Apart from being endorsed by Kanye, this one had a different silhouette than most Adidas sneakers made until then. Yet Adidas focuses more on putting quality over quantity, which is noticeable in their technological solutions.
Their Boost technology uses a cushion made from thermoplastic polyurethane, which compresses under pressure. It has optimal uses in different sports and workout programs.
Outsourcing production was nothing new for either of the giants. However, in the past few years, both Nike and Adidas have completely switched to overseas production, now producing both their apparel and footwear in China and Vietnam.
Conclusion Adidas vs Nike
The Adidas vs Nike rivalry is one that shows no signs of slowing down. Nike’s current business strategy is based on digital marketing strategies and collaboration with athletes with the best ROI rate. This helps persuade their customers and keep the company in the leading position in the sales market.
However, Adidas puts more effort into functionality and continued improvements of its product, which is what most customers ultimately need. Users are happy to see that the company isn’t just about pushing its apparel on the market but is willing to receive feedback on the products from all its clients.
Nike isn’t quite as dominant as it used to be but its revenue still dwarfs any other sports brand, including Adidas. That being said, for many people, the rivalry goes beyond money and many prefer the Adidas brand for their dedication to customer satisfaction.
So in the Adidas vs Nike debate, who wins? Well, it depends on what metric you’re looking at. Hopefully, now you can draw your own conclusion on which brand you think is better.
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