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How Georgia Tech and Adidas came together

Even before Todd Stansbury officially took the job as Georgia Tech athletic director in late November, he was on the job of finding the athletic department’s next apparel provider.

While still in the employ of Oregon State, he had conversations with representatives from Adidas, Nike and Under Armour. He did background work on Tech’s status. When the department’s executive leadership team went to Baltimore to visit Under Armour headquarters, Stansbury accompanied. Tech and longtime apparel provider Russell Athletic had already reached a mutual agreement to let their contract expire in June 2018 without an extension, and Stansbury was not wasting time.

A mission of Stansbury’s in his new job was to elevate the Tech brand, and he recognized the role an apparel provider could play.

“So I would say almost probably the day after I was announced, and well before I ever started my first day, we were honed in on what we were going to do and had started conversations with Adidas on how we could make this happen,” Stansbury said Tuesday.

Stansbury spoke at a news conference to introduce Adidas as its new apparel provider, an agreement that will officially begin in July 2018. It’s a six-year agreement that will bring Tech cash, uniforms and gear. (The contract has not been finalized.)

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He also has a corporate partner that can hone in on Tech as a client in creating uniforms and marketing projects to help the Yellow Jackets stand out in Atlanta, the state of Georgia and beyond.

“They’ve kind of really handpicked the programs that they want to be associated with, so that’s kind of what really ended up being one of the overriding factors,” Stansbury said.

Tech will be Adidas’ 11th power-conference school, joining, among others, three ACC members – Louisville, Miami and N.C. State. Jim Murphy, Adidas’ sports marketing director for the NCAA, said that the brand doesn’t plan to go higher than 15 power-conference schools for the foreseeable future. That space is dominated by Nike, which has contracts with 43 of the 65 power-conference schools.

“Everyone wants that (individual attention),” Murphy said. “The question is, how much time can you really dedicate to each school? If you have 90 to 100 schools ...”

What also drew Stansbury to Adidas was its shared interest in innovation and the Atlanta market. Those are two ways that Stansbury, in his vision for the future of the athletic department, has sought to differentiate Tech from its competitors, particularly in the sphere of recruiting.

Adidas looks at Atlanta strategically. The company is expected to open a Speedfactory, a robot-powered assembly plant, later this year in Cherokee County. Adidas is also an exclusive partner of P3, a company that seeks to use sports-science technology to assess injuries in professional athletes before they occur. P3 will have a center at the Hawks’ new training center in Brookhaven.

“So we’ll really partner up with P3, knowing we have an athlete assessment (site) in this area, and really try to funnel a lot of the Georgia Tech athletes through that,” Murphy said.

While Under Armour initially was aggressive in its interest for Tech – Nike, perhaps having significant presence in the market with Georgia already on board, was not – Adidas became the leader through its aligned interests.

Stansbury recalled a meeting in the late spring with his team and Adidas executives. Stansbury chose to hold the meeting in Tech Square, a part of campus across the Downtown Connector that is home to startups, business incubators and innovation centers.

The Adidas team presented first, followed by Stansbury’s team. The presentations both centered on innovation, technology and capitalizing on the Atlanta market, Stansbury said.

“I just remember debriefing after that with the team and said it almost looked like we worked together on those presentations,” Stansbury said. “And that’s when I kind of knew that this could be a pretty awesome partnership.”

The deal, of course, involves a bit more than technology and market penetration.

Stansbury was hopeful about the impact that the uniforms and gear will have on recruiting.

What will the football uniforms look like? It remains to be seen. Murphy said that Adidas had just gotten started meeting with coach Paul Johnson and Stansbury and getting input on what they want. Adidas has created a variety of different looks for partners. Miami has run the gamut, from the recognizable orange on white uniforms that the Hurricanes wore in their heyday in the ’80s to a “305 Ice” look of all-white uniforms with metallic silver accents.

“I don’t see us being too crazy here,” Murphy said. “At the end of the day, it’s more about how they want to represent our brand.”

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