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University of Washington Agrees to Sweeping Sponsorship Agreement with Adidas

The 10 year, $120M deal is one of the biggest in all of college athletics.

UCLA v Washington Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

An old business school professor of mine used to remind us frequently that making a good deal is often less about the target and more about the timing.

UW AD Jen Cohen followed that advice and struck a hot iron in inking UW’s $120 million, 10-year shoe and apparel sponsorship deal with Adidas today.

The record-breaking deal makes UW the 12th college deal for Adidas (and its second PAC 12 deal after Arizona State). The Germany-based sports apparel company has been trying to grow its footprint in American college sports over the past three years. Mark King, the President of Adidas Group North America, has disclosed that his intent is to compete vigorously for major college deals and to establish a marquee contract in every region of the country. With deals already in place for schools such as Louisville, Kansas, Miami, Nebraska, and Texas A&M, the Pacific Northwest was one of the last prizes left to capture.

Enter Jen Cohen and her merry band of resurgent athletic programs.

Cohen was in the catbird’s seat to be sure. With Nike entrenched as a 20-year partner to UW and owning much of the mind share in the greater Northwest, Adidas had to put together a killer deal in order to wrestle away one of the most successful college athletic programs in the nation. Adidas delivered both in terms of money and duration, not to mention direct support for students in the form of promised internship opportunities. In doing so, they ended a legacy relationship with a Nike company that just recently renewed their deal with Oregon for 11 years and $88 million in total value.

Per Adam Jude’s reporting from the Seattle Times, UW will earn an annual cash payout of a little over a $5.3 million. That will be enhanced with another $5.6 million plus in equipment/apparel plus another $1.1 million annually in marketing. That is a significant bump up from the previous Nike deal that paid out $3.6 million in cash and products annually.

The Huskies now own the seventh richest sponsorship deal in college athletics and the third largest done by Adidas. While it might still pale in comparison to Under Armour’s 15-year, $280 million deal with UCLA (a number slightly inflated due to the presence of stock in the deal), it is an impressive acknowledgement of the burgeoning value of the UW brand.

The deal will now be sent to the Board of Regents for final approval. Once done, the deal will go into effect in 2019. That means we’ll have one more year of the same uniforms before the Adidas influence seeps its way into the mix.

Many fans I’ve already heard from are glad to be separated from the Swoosh and the awkward connection that brings with it to the Oregon program. While the significance of Oregon bias at Nike is often overstated (sometimes dramatically so), I can’t help but to wonder what kind of shoe company rivalry might end up playing out on the court and the field. It will be fun.

The full press release is below.


SEATTLE - University of Washington athletic officials announced, Tuesday, plans for a 10-year agreement to make adidas the official athletic footwear and apparel partner of the Huskies through June of 2029. The agreement is contingent upon approval from the UW Board of Regents.

“The University of Washington is thrilled to establish this partnership with adidas,” UW Director of Athletics Jennifer Cohen said. “We believe this partnership will allow us to provide a new competitive edge to our coaches, student-athletes and our incredible fan base. As we researched adidas’ college partnerships, we were extremely impressed with their product innovation, global brand significance, and most of all the depth of service and attention they provide to their partner schools. After meeting with their leadership team, it was clear that adidas understands what makes Washington special and I believe their passion for this partnership will resonate deeply with all who call themselves Huskies.”

adidas welcomes Washington as the 12th licensed NCAA program in their portfolio.

“Like the University of Washington, adidas is a respected worldwide brand, and this unique partnership will position us for great success moving forward,” Huskies Head Football Coach Chris Petersen said. “We are excited to partner with adidas, and we believe our student-athletes will benefit greatly from this agreement.”

Here are some tweets: