How Nike Took Adidas’ Island of Momentum

In 2016 Adidas made waves in the sports community by offering up $1,000,000 to any NFL combine invitee who could beat the record 40-yard dash time while wearing their cleats. The record time of 4.24 seconds was set almost a decade ago in 2008 by lighting-fast running back Chris Johnson. Like Warren Buffets offer of a million dollars a year for life to anyone in the country who can create a perfect March Madness NCAA basketball bracket, this offer is a brilliant bit of marketing and public relations because ultimately it would be rare for anyone to win.

Adidas have stepped it up a notch in 2017, offering up a private island to anyone who can beat the 40 time in this year’s NFL Combine. The rules still state the athletes must be wearing particular Adidas football cleats and must have signed an endorsement deal with the company before the upcoming 2017 NFL season. The cleats, claimed by Adidas to be the lightest cleat in football, are the 2017 adizero 5-star cleats. The private island will be chosen by Adidas and will be valued up to one million dollars. Media, consumers, and college football players gave this new offer a lot more attention than 2016’s offer of one million dollars despite the island being worth the same amount in the end.

During the NFL Combine, participants will get two tries to record their fastest time. Although there are two chances to run, two islands cannot be won during the NFL Combine.

Adidas provided very specific rules for the offer: β€œFurther, Athlete is only eligible to win the One Million Dollars ($1,000,000) in connection with the NFL Scouting Combine one (1) Island (e.g., Athlete cannot break the Official Record in his first attempt and earn the One Million Dollars ($1,000,000), then break the record again in his second attempt and earn a second Island.”

Unless a record of nine years is broken, Adidas was able to come out of the NFL Combine with a ton of free marketing for their company. Well, it turns out the record was broken in 2017. University of Washington wide receiver John Ross III dominated the combine, jumping over 11 feet in the broad jump and capping off a perfect day by beating Chris Johnson 40-yard dash time. The only problem for Adidas? Ross III is a big Nike guy and performed the entire combine in all Nike gear.

Adidas’ specific rules for their Island offer may have lead to their demise in this instance. That is not to say that Ross or any other player at the combine wore other brands because of the rules of the giveaway. In any case, Nike swooped in and made sure to capitalize on Adidas’ momentum.

Nike did not have to give up any money — or islands — to get Ross to run in their gear, which makes the partnership between the Ross III and Nike seem much more genuine. The running company also got a jab in at rival Adidas in their tweet by saying, “On an island all by yourself.” Ross III was set to be one of the first wide receivers taken in this year’s upcoming NFL draft. After his combine performance Ross is looking at a higher draft spot as well as probably a long-term deal with Nike.

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