FRANKFURT: NBA star James Harden will soon be dribbling the ball with Adidas sneakers on his feet as the German sportswear maker hopes to retake US market share from basketball giant Nike and number two Under Armour.
Signing up the Houston Rockets guard in a reported 13-year, $200 million (180 million euro) deal aims to make Adidas trendy in a market where it has been caught flat-footed before.
Charismatic Harden, 25, known as “The Beard” to his fans and voted the NBA’s second best player last season, will switch from Nike to wear Adidas shoes on the court, and its gear in social settings, from October.
Adidas has stayed quiet about the sum reported by ESPN, but confirms it is taking a big bet on basketball.
“His connection with the fans is unique and unprecedented,” an Adidas spokesman told AFP, noting that the salary will be linked to athletic performance. “He can take the game and our brand to new heights.”
In a market where teenagers love custom sneakers, Adidas is taking on number one Nike, which already sponsors superstars LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.
“Adidas is changing its marketing strategy,” said Cedric Rossi, an analyst at investment bank Bryan Garnier.
“It no longer sponsors the NBA league, but it is backing a few key players . . . Consumers associate and identify with these stars much more easily.”
Nike will, meanwhile, take over from Adidas as NBA’s official apparel supplier from the 2016-17 season.
From then, Adidas will reallocate the $10 million a year it paid to the league to individual players, said Rossi, explaining the value of Harden’s contract.
“We must not forget that it is for about 13 years. In the end, he makes $15 million a year.”