The NFL is a Nike-dominated league. Not only does the Swoosh own the on-field rights as the NFL’s official uniform provider, it also represents a vast majority of the league’s top players.
Sole Collector’s Brendan Dunne broke down Nike’s dominance in player marketing earlier this year:
The following figures reflect the extent to which the NFL’s best players are aligned with the Swoosh:
· 26 of the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL this season were Nike athletes.
· 16 of the top 20 rushing leaders in the NFL are Nike athletes.
· 14 of the top 20 receiving leaders in the NFL are Nike athletes.
· 9 of the top 12 interception leaders in the NFL are Nike athletes.
· The top 10 tackling leaders in the NFL are all Nike athletes.
· 76 percent of players selected for the 2016 NFL Pro Bowl are Nike athletes.
· Nearly half of all NFL players on active rosters have competed in a Nike Football camp or combine.
Nike’s strength in numbers aside, another brand has stolen the buzz for the NFL’s opening weekend. adidas has taken center stage with the help of several key players, a fitting ad spot, and Kanye West.
The noise started when adidas debuted “Sport Needs Creators” featuring Von Miller, Aaron Rodgers, Paul Pogba, and Brandon Ingram. The spot promotes individual creativity and “something different,” among its athletes, further positioning adidas as the brand for not only players, but creators and athletes whose influence stretch beyond the lines of their sport.
The advertisement got traction, but the noise grew to a social media roar just before the season-opener between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. Reigning Super Bowl MVP Von Miller tweeted out a never-before-seen image of adidas Yeezy football cleats, an adaptation from Kanye West and adidas’ Yeezy Boost 750. In the tweet, Miller thanked West and adidas for the pair.
West and adidas had previously hinted at extending the Yeezy line to basketball, football, baseball, and soccer, but an on-field product was not expected to debut this quickly. Twitter predictably caught fire and just hours later, Miller took the field rocking the first-ever Yeezy cleat.
— Von Miller (@Millerlite40) September 8, 2016
The adidas buzz wasn’t done. Deandre Hopkins and Adrian Peterson have debuted another Yeezy cleat, this time mirroring the wildly popular Yeezy Boost 350. In similar fashion to Miller, they each thanked adidas US Football and West.
— Deandre Hopkins (@Nukdabomb) September 9, 2016
adidas effectively crashed the NFL’s opening weekend party. The brand owned the season-opener’s media conversation—in which 39 of 44 starters were Nike-sponsored—by activating its biggest star with an unexpected product. Together, The tweets from Miller, Hopkins, and Peterson have accumulated more than 30 thousand retweets and received extensive media coverage in outlets ranging from sports giants like ESPN to lifestyle fashion havens like Highsnobiety.
With no end in sight, the party-crashing campaign has already resulted in millions of dollars of earned media value for adidas. On a weekend that adidas could have just as easily been an afterthought, it instead became its most talked about brand. As adidas Director of Brand Marketing Jeremy Darlow says, “It’s easier to crash a party than it is to throw a party.”