Adidas helps athletic department reach new heights


Matt Sexton

NKU women’s basketball, and all other sports, will be wearing adidas apparel come the start of this season

On past tournament weekends, the Northern Kentucky University golf team faced two battles. One battle is the game itself. The grinding, the putting and the concentration involved in striking the ball in the right spot on the club.

The second battle was in the hotel after the round, where the team would have to decide if they wanted to wash their uniforms for the next day, or try and play in the same uniform they played in the day before.

That changes Friday, when the deal between NKU and adidas officially begins. The deal makes the Portland, Washington based company the official provider of footwear, apparel, and accessory brand of the university.

Leslie Fields, NKU’s associate athletic director for compliance and athletic administration, has been an adviser for the golf team and has witnessed the struggle first hand.

“Tournaments are usually four days long and in the past we’ve only been able to give them two or three shirts and no pairs of shorts,” Fields said. “They’ve had to do laundry in the hotel.”

The team also had to purchase their own golf shoes, as the athletic department could not provide them any.

Every member of the team had also only been allotted one bag during their NKU careers.

“When you take them through airports and all the rounds of golf they get really beat up,” Fields said.

The agreement between NKU and adidas surpasses any clothing contract in school history.

“This is the most comprehensive apparel deal in school history,” said Bryan McEldowney, NKU assistant athletic director for communication and media. “At the end of the day, we could outfit all 17 programs, 250 athletes, and every sport with adidas.”

This means the golf team will no longer have to do laundry in the hotel room, and won’t have to buy their own shoes, golf balls, and will be able to replace their beaten down bags.

“We will have four shirts and four pairs of shorts for the golfers now,” Fields said. “We are also getting them duffle and travel bags for this season. I’m just so excited to give our kids what they need and not have to use their own money to buy what we expect them to have.

“We get to show off a little”

While the deal is huge step up from the previous deal with Nike, Fields had some initial doubts about the deal and how student athletes would respond.

“I was worried. I don’t think adidas is the ‘coolest’ brand,” Fields said. “Young people think Nike or Under Armour are cooler, at least that’s the perception. So some athletes were like ‘really?’ Our budget hasn’t changed, but what we get for our money is so much more. Once athletes get here and see how much they get they will think this is way better.”

NKU will get a 50 percent discount on all apparel according to Dan McIver, senior associate athletic director of business and finance. The student athletes will also have access to any product adidas has in the catalog, which is a change from the previous deal with Nike.

“We did not have full access to Nike’s full product line,” McIver said. “We could only get access to a certain number of products. In reality, our deal was no better than what local high schools can get. With adidas, any product they make we have access to. For us that’s important.”

While McEldowney acknowledges there are some restrictions to the deal, he is excited about the opportunity his student athletes have right now.

“In most instances we are not going to be able to provide everything, but we will be able to provide a heck of a lot more than we did in the past. The partnership allows for that,” McEldowney said. “We have more flexibility and anytime you can make an improvement in that aspect, it’s big.”

Adidas also will allow the school to customize jerseys as well as performance incentives that will provide NKU with additional products and discounts if the team qualifies for an NCAA championship.

Adidas also assisted in the rebranding of NKU and helped the school come up with a consistent font for all apparel, as well as offering the exact gold color the school uses everywhere else on campus.

“It’s allows us to align our branding. All the same font, logo, and colors. It’s really going to set us apart,” McEldowney said. “They came to us and offered to help with it all.”

The deal benefits the student body as well. The deal will allow club sports to access adidas’s full line of products and apply the same half off discount as the athletic department to anything they choose. This would include uniforms for the clubs and any equipment needed to compete.

This, along with an adidas-sponsored fundraiser makes the deal stand out among many other mid-major apparel deals.

“Adidas helping us with a fundraiser is very unique, as well as the amount of product we are going to get,” McIver said.

The small things in the deal were welcoming to many in the department as well. McEldowney took to the court when the new adidas basketballs arrived on campus and was surprised by what he found.

“I took a few shots with the new basketball and I was really blown away by the quality of the ball,” he said.

When the department met with five student athlete leaders to discuss building comradery in the athletic community, Fields told them about getting t-shirts for the students when they present these ideas to the whole department.

“They were like surprised. We’ve never had the opportunity to do anything like that,” Fields said. “And that’s adidas. We wouldn’t be able to do that without them.” 

While the deal officially starts July 1, McEldowney notes that the change from Nike to adidas will be a slower one as far as selling apparel to fans and students.

“Vendors have to make orders six to eight months in advance. So it may take a little time to start seeing the new stuff,” McEldowney said.

Since this deal was announced in February, vendors got a late start on ordering the new apparel. This means there will not be a big event on Friday.

“There won’t be a huge unveiling or anything like that. It’s going to be a slower process.”

Fans and students should look for new apparel in the bookstores soon, but will have to wait awhile until all the apparel is available to the public..

“You will start seeing a lot more of it once it starts appearing,” McEldowney said.