Weighing Georgia Tech’s options: Adidas, Nike, Under Armour

With Georgia Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury having confirmed that the school's apparel contract with Russell Athletic will not be renewed after the coming academic year , the question then becomes which shoe company – Adidas, Nike or Under Armour – will be the next supplier of gear for the Yellow Jackets.

Stansbury told the AJC that the athletic department is in the early stages of gauging interest from the three companies.

“Timing is a huge thing, and also what their corporate priorities are at this time,” Stasnbury said. “So that’s why we’re, I think, in the early stages of those conversations, just trying to gauge where the interest might be.”

Of the 65 power-conference schools, 44 will be wearing Nike in the 2017-18 academic year, according to a Campus Insiders story from February. Adidas and Under Armour have 10 schools each. Tech is alone with Russell Athletic.

Nike continues to be the most prevalent and powerful brand, with contracts with giants such as Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama and Georgia. Football coach Paul Johnson and basketball coach Josh Pastner are already aligned with the monolithic shoe company.

Stansbury is well aware of the marketing and design might that Nike would bring to a partnership. He has a relationship with the company from his time at Oregon State, a Nike school. He was executive associate AD when Nike went through a re-design process, including logos and colors, that debuted in 2013 after his departure to UCF. Nike was also the outfitter for UCF during Stansbury’s tenure as AD at the school 2012-15.

Upstart Under Armour made a splash last year signing UCLA to a record $280 million deal over 15 years. The company also has Notre Dame, Auburn and South Carolina under contract, along with its flagship, Maryland. Stansbury was teammates at Tech with Sammy Huntley, a vice president at Under Armour.

“I think it’s always helpful to have somebody that is in a leadership role, even if (Huntley) may not be directly engaged,” Stansbury said.

Tech also played a critical role in the story of Under Armour’s rise. Tech reportedly gave company founder and CEO Kevin Plank his first big sale in 1996, a deal that kept him from going broke. Under Armour is seen as being strategic in choosing its partners, and it’s conceivable that the company’s technical orientation could match well with Tech.

The brand has two ACC partners, Notre Dame and Boston College.

In recent years, Adidas has lost some big fish such as Nike, Notre Dame and Wisconsin, but its reduced standing could help Tech from a recruiting perspective, at least in basketball. Adidas remains strong in AAU basketball circles, and, to the extent that shoe companies and AAU teams exert influence on prospects to sign with colleges with the same apparel deal, having fewer Adidas colleagues could benefit coach Josh Pastner. The company also began supplying cleats to the Tech baseball team this past season.

Adidas’ ACC clientele – Louisville, Miami, N.C. State.

Interesting to note: the Tech athletics online store has 13 items from Under Armour, 12 from Nike and one from Adidas.

Stansbury undoubtedly will be interested in each brand beyond what it offers on the bottom line. He has placed a high priority on ensuring that Tech develops an identifiable brand , and its apparel partner can go a long way to that end. An apparel provider that is equally committed to elevating Tech's brand is of primary importance, he said.

“I think when we do make a transition, there’s going to be a lot of excitement from our alumni and our base,” Stansbury said, “and obviously, we’ll have an opportunity to really do some things in Atlanta that we may not have been able to do before, and so I think that having somebody that sees that and wants to take advantage of that is going to be really important.”