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Let’s Wildly Speculate About ‘Cuse’s Nike Situation

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Uniform and apparel news is starting to trickle out as Spring ball gets underway. Let’s talk/speculate about ‘Cuse’s deal with Nike.

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North Carolina State v Syracuse

First: a lay of the landscape. Over the last decade or so, apparel companies have upped their commitment to collegiate sports. Within the last five years, some seriously eye-popping contract numbers have been negotiated, with the idea being that these apparel companies will eventually earn back this “investment” in product moved not just with that school’s branded materials, but with the exposure their success will bring to the apparel company.

Yesterday, Washington, a long term Nike partner, ditched the swoosh for Adidas, meaning we’ll surely see Hop wearing Yeezys at some point. The deal includes upwards of $5 million in cash, another $5 million in product and $1 million in marketing per year.

So why does this involve ‘Cuse? As we’ve covered last week, our current football uniforms aren’t very well liked, but that doesn’t mean we’re ok with Illinois being outfitted as a mid-west Syracuse. And in that research, we found that Syracuse, who used to be on Nike’s front page of collegiate partners, has been removed, even though gear is still available.

Cuse suspiciously absent from the Nike website listing.

(Note, not every Nike school is there or the website would be a long scroll.)

As more and more schools continue to announce new uniforms or new apparel deals and Syracuse’s Nike search on both Nike’s and Cuse’s online shops yield very little new product, one can’t help but think something is up.

After talking internally in the #NunesSlack and with my friends way more familiar with the apparel industry, there are two conclusions I’m drawing.

The first conclusion is that Nike is making a fundamental brand shift when it comes to collegiate apparel deals. While most associate Nike with basketball shoes (their recent deal with the NBA has certainly helped maintain that brand correlation), Nike’s biggest contract in terms of money and length is their deal with the NFL. In college football, there has never been a non-Nike College Football Playoff team. Whether it be the Super Bowl or the CFB National Championship, for the last four years, Nike has been front and dead center.

Nike’s true power is that they’ve become a lifestyle brand, something that SNL poked fun at this past weekend. With that, Jordan Brand has found a way to grow beyond just shoes and into technology and other Nike apparel. It’s why Nike has been converting some of their biggest football partners into Jordan Brand Schools, all debuting this year. So the argument goes that moving forward, if you want to be a “Nike Elite” school, you’ve got to be offering more than just a basketball name.

That being said, Gonzaga, UConn, Duke and UVA are all front and center, so lol.

The second is pretty straight forward: Ever since John Wildhack became Athletic Director, he has been open about the fact that he believes Syracuse is a national brand and would leave Nike if another company put the Orange in a better position for that national brand. One can then logically guess that Syracuse being removed as one of Nike’s signature national partners on their website lends credence to the idea that the swoosh may not agree with this assessment to the degree that the Athletic Department does. In the above link, Wildhack said Syracuse had “ a couple of years left,” on the deal, which means Syracuse may be currently negotiating a deal with Nike or some other company, and Nike isn’t making any more commitments to ‘Cuse until this situation is ironed out.

What do you think? Do you care who Syracuse Athletics aligns with as long as they pay market value for that right? Let us know in the comments.