Trainers are big business, the global athletic shoe market was worth $58 billion in 2018 and is predicted to rise to $88 billion by 2024. With such a market size it’s a lucrative market for sports brands and is keenly contested for market share. *
Despite a number of new entrants into space in recent years, APL to name but one, the market is still dominated by a small number of heavyweights. Nike and Adidas have been slugging it out to be the world champion in sport’s shoes for a very long time and for anyone who has read Phil Knights fantastic book, Shoe Dog, you’ll see the competition between the brands is a driver for both of their successes.
But who is currently winning this never-ending battle? Who is the top dog in the trainer market?
Let’s start by looking at revenues for the two brands. Nike is the larger business overall and the market leader in the global sports footwear industry with revenues from their footwear of over $24.2 billion in 2018, compared to Adidas footwear revenue of $15 billion. These figures include not only Nike and Adidas branded footwear but also Converse (owned by Nike) and Reebok (owned by Adidas).
In terms of revenue growth, Adidas footwear has added $5.8 billion since 2015 growing at an average rate of 17.6% whereas Nike footwear has only added $4.3 billion at an average rate of 6.8%
Clearly, a defining factor when considering who is winning in this market is the capitalization. Nike’s market capitalization as of July 2019 stood at $140 billion – more than double that of Adidas’s $65 billion – illustrating the scale of both businesses.
Adidas has been demonstrating a stronger share price performance in 2019 as Adidas shares are outperforming the market whereas Nikes’ have been growing in line with industry performance.
Again Adidas appears to be winning on this metric – having adopted a marketing approach which focuses more on streetwear sneakers through ‘cooler’ collaborations with music and celebrity influencers such as Kanye West and Beyonce as compared to Nike’s more sports-focused approach. Clearly, with the athleisure trend moving sportswear from the gym to the office Adidas is betting that they can take even more of the market with this approach.
One man who knows about the Adidas/Nike rivalry more than most and has made a fortune collaborating with both is rapper Kanye West, named recently in Forbes’ 2019 list of the 100 highest-paid celebrities, in third place.
Kanye’s celebrity status is undisputed – one of the most popular (and successful) rappers of his generation, he is also one-half of one of the most recognizable couples in the world through his marriage to Kim Kardashian. Only three years ago Kanye tweeted that he was $53 million in debt yet now the singer is reportedly enjoying an annual pre-tax income of at least $150 million. This turn around in his fortune is largely through his building of a $1 billion fashion empire through his sneaker brand Yeezy.
Originally partnering with Nike to sell his Yeezy trainers–releasing three styles over a five-year partnership, Kanye made a shock announcement in 2014 that he was doing the unimaginable and moving to Nikes’ rivals Adidas
The first Adidas Yeezys were launched in February 2015 and the partnership has gone on to become one of the most successful partnerships of all time.
Yeezy sales are predicted to top $1.5 billion by the end of this year and their growth in popularity shows no sign of slowing.
Whereas Nikes’ main collaboration is with a very different genre of celebrity; veteran basketball player Michael Jordan whose Air Jordan line of trainers for Nike currently holds the top spot for celebrity sneaker brands, generating approx $3 billion in sales each year. The first Air Jordans were launched in 1985 therefore whilst they remain popular they are now an established sneaker name and can no longer be described as having the cool factor.
Nike clearly recognizes this and in 2018 moved to tackle this conception through their sponsorship of Paris Saint Germain Football Club. This saw the football club be the first to wear Jordan merchandise and focused the advertising around their global superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe!
For Nike and Adidas the battle for footwear supremacy is continually ongoing and one that is the foundation of success for both businesses, especially with both pushing to grow their direct to consumer relationships. Nike might be the bigger company but through sponsorship and an improving ‘cool’ factor, Adidas is clearly closing the gap.