The Final Four and Nike
As the Men’s Final Four is set to tip-off in New Orleans this weekend, while the Women’s Final Four will be played in Denver, along with great basketball games, fans should keep their eyes peeled for something else: Swooshes.
Since as long as 1985, when Nike introduced The Dunk shoe and entered into sponsorship agreements with colleges whose basketball programs would wear The Dunk in the school’s colors, Nike has forged strong bonds with some of the top college basketball programs in the nation. Some 27 years later, that bond continues to be strengthened. In January, Nike unveiled its most recent piece of college basketball apparel: the Hyper Elite Platinum series. The focal marketing point of the Hyper Elite Platinum series was an innovatively designed uniform created largely from recycled polyester. However, from a fan perspective, the highlight of the new series was that Nike designed the uniforms for the nine teams which have won national championships while wearing its apparel: Arizona, Baylor (women), Connecticut (men and women), Duke, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse.
It is no coincidence that some of the most prestigious college basketball programs have won national championships while donning Nike apparel. In developing products specifically designed for college basketball players and creating a proactive sponsorship and marketing approach, Nike has set itself apart as the leader in college basketball apparel.
This fact is demonstrated when one considers how many Division I basketball programs Nike currently has sponsorship agreements in place with. According to Mary Remuzzi, Director of Global Communications for Nike, Inc., 54 teams that competed in this year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball tournament are sponsored by Nike, with 50 being “Nike schools” and four being “Jordan schools.” Additionally, all four of this year’s number-one seeds are sponsored by Nike, while ten of the top-16 seeds are sponsored by Nike (seven being “Nike schools” and three being “Jordan schools”). Of the teams participating in the Men’s Final Four, two are sponsored by Nike: Ohio State and Kentucky.
Nike also has a stronghold when it comes to sponsorships for women’s basketball programs. According to Remuzzi, 50 of the teams that competed in this year’s NCAA Division Women’s Basketball tournament are sponsored by Nike. Of this year’s number one seeds for the women’s tournament, three of the four are sponsored by Nike.
When asked what the business benefit is to Nike in outfitting college athletes with Nike apparel, Remuzzi provided great insight into Nike’s longstanding history of working with college athletes. Remuzzi said,
“Nike is a youth brand committed to developing young athletes. We design our products by working with athletes to gain their insights. By supporting college athletics, it helps us create and then showcase our most innovative products.
Nike actually has a long history of supporting college athletics stretching back to when Steve Prefontaine ran for the University of Oregon in the 1970s under the Coach Bill Bowerman, one of Nike’s co-founders. Ever since, Nike has been about bringing the best athletes at the collegiate level (and beyond) our most innovative products to help inspire them and help them perform at their best. A good example is the University of Oregon (co-founder Phil Knight’s undergraduate alma mater) and the uniforms we developed for the school’s football team that debuted in last year’s Rose Bowl (http://www.nikeinc.com/news/oregon-ducks-will-wear-most-innovative-football-uniform-to-date-for-rose-bowl). This was the most advanced uniform system ever assembled.”
With respect to college basketball, Nike re-committed itself to providing student-athletes with innovative products by debuting its Style of Dress uniforms in 2007. System of Dress revolved around the idea of giving players a “more tailored look on-court,” while also providing them with a design compatible with high-performance play. The Style of Dress line was originally introduced to only four programs in 2007 (Arizona, Floria Ohio State, and Syracuse). The fact that the line’s most recent release (the Hyper Elite Platinum series) was introduced to nine schools, demonstrates Nike’s continued commitment and interest in outfitting college basketball programs with its innovative apparel.
In coming years, one can only expect Nike’s sponsorships of college basketball programs to increase. For the time being, though, all one needs to do to spot a Nike sponsored program, is be on the lookout for the Nike Swoosh on a player’s jersey or shorts.