The Swoosh You Hear Is Nike Exiting Man U

Nike is taking its Swoosh off the shirts of Manchester United after a dozen years because the terms for a renewed deal “did not represent good value for Nike’s shareholders.” Speculation is rampant that arch-rival Adidas, fresh off some ardent World Cup competition with Nike, will fill the void.

“Nike and Adidas are battling for supremacy in the football kit industry, with the American company having made major inroads into a sport that its German rival long dominated,” writes the Daily Mail’s Adam Crafton, who says the deal “could be worth in the region of £750m over 10 years.”

In contrast, “Nike signed a contract with Manchester United in 2002 worth a minimum of £303 million, or about $519 million at the current exchange rate,” reports the New York Times’ Chad Bray. “The relationship with one of the English Premier League’s best-known clubs has helped spur Nike’s sales of soccer equipment over the years.”



Indeed it has, even if it was not quite the bargain that that Nike Swoosh itself — designed by Portland State University student Carolyn Davidson in 1971 and acquired by Nike co-founder Phil Knight for $35 — has proven to be.

“Manchester United is a great club with passionate fans," Nike said in a widely reported statement. “We are proud to have partnered with them for the last 12 years and will continue to sponsor the club until the end of the 2014-15 season.”

As for Adidas, the potential deal represents “the latest move by … the world's second-largest sporting gear and equipment maker to regain some ground from Nike,” the Wall Street Journal’s Sarah Germano reported Tuesday. “In Adidas's home region of Western Europe, net sales were flat at €1.1 billion ($1.5 billion) for the quarter ended March 31, while Nike posted a 25% jump to $1.3 billion in the region for the quarter ended May 31.”

The Man U shirt for the upcoming 2014-15 season still sports the Swoosh, although new sponsor Chevrolet — replacing Aon, which retains other partnerships with the brand — is the more prominent logo on the bright red “kit,” as the uniforms are known across the pond. 

Chevy’s deal with Manchester United has not been without controversy, even as the brand announced late last year that it would pull most of its nameplates from the European market. But the sum of Manchester United’s appeal, despite a dismal season last year, is its vast global reach. Its website, for example, is available in seven languages — although Chevrolet is Chevrolet, even in the Korean version

For more on Chevrolet’s thinking, be sure to read Karl Greenberg’s recent interview with Paul Edwards, U.S. VP for Chevrolet, about the strategy behind its jersey placement and extensions such as a video about the history of the shirt and an app that allows fans to upload their picture and see themselves atop the bright red jersey. 

But “the response to the new design has been mostly negative, with many fans opining on Twitter that the uniforms are, quite simply, ugly,” writesFortune’s Ben Geier.

Nike, meanwhile, showcased its jerseys for the Manchester City team, a sponsorship it took over from Umbro last season in a deal that runs through 2019. The blue jerseys are “manufactured from around 18 recycled plastic water bottles to bolster the club’s sustainability credentials,” writes The Drum’s John Glenday.

The company used “3D body scanning technology to create as good a fit as possible” and incorporated technology such as Nike Dri-Fit “which draws sweat from the wearer’s body via custom ventilation holes.”

Sounds like something Joel Ewanick might have sported.

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