Oh how the mighty hath fallen. It’s a term one hears enough and it’s usually in a social setting or a business setting. Sometimes, depending on the context, it’s deserved and in the case of big business it’s often a reminder of many things. It serves to remind them that they cannot rest on their laurels and to remind them that sometimes their best simply isn’t good enough. It also serves to remind them that despite what they think they know about the consumer, they cannot have a sure-fire win each and every time. Some of the biggest companies have had some major misses and, while I’m not one for laughing at the failure of another, when it comes to corporates taking a knock, I’m prepared to let go with a few giggles. So with this in mind, let’s take some bad marketing decisions made by two of the biggest sneakers giants in the world – Nike and Adidas.
Nike & Adidas Sneakers
Batman and The Joker, Superman and Lex Luther, Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, James Bond and Ernst Blofeld and finally, Nike and Adidas. Yes boys and girls, such is the rivalry of Nike and Adidas that we can practically hold them up in the canons of pop culture. The battle is epic and like all old rivals, not only has the battle been raging for years but both were responsible for the motives of the other. It all goes way back to 1967 when Nike was starting out. At this point, the founding members, Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman were yet to come up with the name Nike. Instead they wanted to call their line of sneakers Aztec, but there was a problem. Adidas, already well into its existence, had a line of track shoes called Azteca Gold and they were threatening to sue. And so it was that Knight and Bowman eventually came up with Nike as the name of their brand.
Adidas in essence played a large role in creating the Nike name, and when the shoe giant eventually released one it’s most iconic track shoes, the Cortez, the name was born out of nothing short of dislike and revenge. In coming up with the name, Bowerman asked Knight, “Who was the guy who kicked the crap out of the Aztecs?” “Cortez,” responded Knight, and that’s how the Cortez were born.
Years later when the whole old school revivalist movement was coming into effect, Adidas re-released the Azteca Gold sneakers to capitalise on the collective movement towards old school clothing and apparel, and when Nike saw this they knew it was time for a re-match and decided to look to past success as well. Thus the decision was made to rebirth the Cortez, commonly referred to as the ‘Forrest Gump Nikes’. This was big; Nike rolled out the red carpet on its shoe of yesteryear, roped in a popular model to strike poses like Farrah Fawcett in her 1970s prime and basically went to town on the whole thing; so much so that it ate into 10 percent of revenue. In the end, Nike lost and to this day Adidas still maintains a stronger grip on the old school clothing and apparel.
A Solid Investment Since 1984
That was but one event in the ongoing battle of the sneakers giants, Nike and Adidas, but let me assure you, it wasn’t the last. Let’s go back now to the year 1984, a great year to have experienced. Iconic films like The Terminator, The Karate Kid, Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom and Ghostbusters were released, leaving indelible marks on the movie-going public. Ghostbusters remains a personal favourite of mine; my affection for this film is such that even though I’m not much of a gambler, the last time I was perusing the aisles of the local casino, I spotted IGT’s take on this movie and I was very impressed. This video slot game had surround-sound seats, a wealth of bonus games and such good character integration that I was happy to be immersed and entertained while my money turned into fairy dust.
1984 wasn’t just a great year for movies, it was also a great year for a sportsman who would go on to become one of the true greats. The sportsman in question? His high-ness himself, Michael Jordan. Back in ’84 Jordan was a rookie player who was averaging 17 points per game in college and whose agent had contacted Adidas to inform them about the NBA rookie – this was shortly before he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls. Adidas, a company with a longer track record than Nike and a company one would think had more clout, exhaled and said no. It became the no heard and felt around the world as Jordan would go on to become the best NBA player of all time netting himself and Nike bajillions upon bajillions of dollars. In fact, the mutually beneficial relationship forged between Nike and Michael Jordan is such that every year Nike writes Mr Jordan a check for $80 million.
Adidas was asked about how it had managed to miss out on one of the most lucrative sports deals ever to which they alluded to Jordan’s height. At 6 foot 6, Michael Jordan wasn’t considered a big player in terms of stature in a sport that is known for its sizeable players, and Adidas assumed that shoppers wouldn’t be inclined to buy shoes from someone at his height, especially seeing as the player they did sponsor was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. To date, Air Jordans, the shoes that Nike designed for Michael, along with subsequent releases have made more than $23 billion for Nike.
This time Nike won, but the battle does rage on and it looks like these two are meant to duke it out forever.