The Sportswear arms race

The ever present rivalry between Adidas and Nike is one that is particularly well documented. One that could easily be described as an arms race of sorts. The duo are in constant competition. Whether it be through striving for technical innovation, a battle for style points, or the continuous one-upmanship that accompanies every signature.

With every action taken from one, there is a mirroring reaction from the other. Nike has the Air Max Unit, and Adidas has its Boost technology. Nike has an ongoing collaboration with Virgil Abloh’s Off-White. While Adidas has since 2014 famously enlisted the services of Kanye West and his Yeezy brand to combine on their market-leading product line.


The latest accolade they appear to be fighting for is one that regards the strength of their stables; meaning the talent present on their rosters. Something that could have been sparked by the work being done by arguably Nike’s most significant asset… Air Jordan.

As we all know, Nike and Adidas are very much dominating forces in the sportswear space. With impressive associations with some of the biggest sporting stars and athletes in the world. So when you hear about a new deal being done between one of these brands and something or someone in the world of sport, it usually doesn’t raise too many eyebrows. Air Jordan’s most recent dealings, however, have certainly done that, and put their competitors on high alert.

Jordan attempts to move into football

Air Jordan has been almost solely associated with the world of Basketball. Spawned from an affiliation with the court’s greatest ever export Michael Jordan. While this has been principle to their success as a brand, their latest move to diversify their portfolio and tread new ground hasn’t gone unnoticed. What I am alluding to is Air Jordan’s recent move into the world of football, something that has seen the brand sign deals with French footballing giants Paris Saint Germain, and their most high profile star Neymar Jnr. As well as a newly reported potential deal that would see them secure the signature of Manchester City and England international Raheem Sterling.

This attempt by Air Jordan to branch out into new markets can only mean worrying things for the Three Stripes. As it only highlights how brands are attempting to diversify their spheres of influence to expand their market reach. Air Jordan moving into other sports is only ever going to intensify competition in terms of the product being produced, and the audience being reached. As previously mentioned, however, there is no action taken from one of these two battling brands, without a reaction in some way shape or form from the other. With Adidas themselves looking to explore entirely new avenues for gaining an edge.

Adidas sign Ric Flair & Ninja

Adidas has recently signed two contrasting and perhaps unexpected names to their brand in an attempt to similarly push their broader appeal into new places. Leading Pro Gamer and Fortnite aficionado Ninja, and former Pro Wrestling star Ric Flair are Adidas’ two latest additions that the brand is hoping can affect new markets in a similar move to that of what Air Jordan is in the midst of. With Flair stating: “It’s not going to be Air Jordan anymore, it’s going to be Air Flair, and I can’t jump”. While the deal with Ninja looks to tap into one of the most rapidly growing aspects of modern culture; the world of gaming, which heralds massive audiences driven by the popularity of these YouTube and Twitch streaming “Stars”.

These moves by both brands clearly showcase differing approaches to achieving a similar end goal, breaking new ground and diversifying their customer base. Whose will be more productive is yet to be determined, but what it does tell us is that there really is no avenue on which these brands will not compete for supremacy, even in the online trainers market. Only that the ways in which they are attempting to outdo each other are becoming less orthodox and easy to predict.