In Adidas’s effort to be more visible on collegiate fields and courts, its new deal with the Pac-12 is a good get.
The company announced on Wednesday a three-year marketing partnership with the Pac-12 conference, home to power schools such as Oregon, USC, and UCLA, and arguably one of the three most competitive college athletic conferences along with the SEC and Big 12.
Adidas becomes the official (and exclusive) apparel and footwear provider of the conference and all Pac-12 events.
This does not mean that Pac-12 schools, in their games, must wear Adidas; many of the schools in fact have apparel deals with a different brand. What it means is that at Pac-12 championship games, all Pac-12 staff will be outfitted in Adidas, and signage will have Adidas logos. The deal is primarily focused on television: Adidas also becomes “presenting sponsor” of Pac-12 Sports Report, a weekly news program that gets a lot of eyeballs when the college football season approaches its conclusion.
“This new partnership continues to highlight our commitment to U.S. college sports and our focus on aligning with championship-level schools, teams and student-athletes,” said Chris McGuire, Adidas’s senior director of sports marketing, in a statement. “We look forward to our brand appearing on field and court, in stadium, across the Pac-12’s digital properties and on-air during Pac-12 Network broadcasts starting this season.”
You can bet they do. Adidas has faltered in the U.S. in recent years to Nike and Under Armour. Its share of the U.S. footwear market has fallen steadily since 2011 and in U.S. apparel it slipped to No. 3 behind Under Armour. Speaking to Fortune at Adidas’s global headquarters in Germany earlier this year, CEO Herbert Hainer said, “I think in hindsight, we have not been as present in American football and in baseball as we should be. These are big sports in America. And I think we need closer contact to the consumer in America.”
To regain share of mind among American sports fans, Adidas is aiming to sign up many more individual pro athletes and many more colleges. Mark King, the company’s U.S. CEO, told Fortune in March, “There are 351 DI college basketball programs in the U.S. Probably not quite as many football. We have 12 or 13 licensed colleges—so we get to sell the licensed product—UCLA, Texas A&M, Indiana, Wisconsin, Louisville, to name a few… The rest of them buy merchandise from Nike, or Under Armour, or Adidas. [But don’t have all-school deals.] And we have about 90 of those. And we’d like to get as many more of those as possible.”
In the Pac-12 conference, Adidas has all-school deals with only UCLA and Arizona State. Some of its other biggest college sponsorships are Mississippi State (part of the SEC) and the University of Miami (ACC). It sponsors the University of Michigan through 2016, but Nike just snatched that deal for when it expires.
As Portland Business Journal reported earlier this month, Pac-12 did not previously have a “celebration gear” sponsor, and was looking. Adidas potentially beat out Nike and Under Armour bids to secure this deal. That’s a win for the German soccer giant.
For much more on Adidas in the U.S., see: Can Kanye West save Adidas?