KU athletics renews its deal with Adidas

At the University of Kansas, the familiar three stripes are sticking around for a while.

After eight years of wearing Adidas apparel — complete with the linear logo — KU on Thursday announced a six-year contract extension that will pay the school in excess of $26 million in cash and merchandise through 2019.

The new deal is one of the richest in Adidas’ large portfolio of collegiate clients, and athletic department officials referenced two important factors in staying with Adidas: The Jayhawks have been more than satisfied with their eight-year relationship, and Adidas was aggressive in making sure that stayed the case as the end of the contract neared.

“We have been extremely pleased with our partnership with Adidas,” KU athletics director Sheahon Zenger said. “Adidas promised quality and dedication to service — to all our teams — and they have delivered what they promised.”

In 2005, when Kansas switched to Adidas under athletic director Lew Perkins, ending a long relationship with Nike, KU basketball coach Bill Self called it a business decision. Eight years later, that phrasing again seemed appropriate. The Jayhawks will receive $10 million in cash and slightly more than $16 million in products over the next six years, an increase of about $1 million annually over the old contract, which paid out $12 million in cash and more than $13 million in products over eight years.

KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said the school was aware of “other interests” in the market —the obvious alternative being Nike — but in the end, Adidas provided the best package.

“We were looking for the best deal,” Marchiony said. “And Adidas gave us the best deal.”

In 2005, there was a concern that the switch to Adidas might hinder recruiting efforts in the basketball program. Self downplayed the issue, but one long-held belief in college basketball circles is that Nike schools can be more attractive to elite basketball players.

The idea might not be 100 percent myth, but Self has managed fine in the absence of the swoosh, winning nine straight Big 12 titles and an NCAA title in 2008. (More evidence: 2013 NCAA champion Louisville is also an adidas school.)

The extension, however, comes after a run of bad press for Adidas, which found itself in a labor dispute after a factory closure in Indonesia in 2011. Workers rights groups pressured the company to dole out nearly $2 million in unpaid severance to displaced factory workers, and the issue caused the University of Wisconsin to file a lawsuit and many other schools to sever ties with Adidas.

Adidas reached a settlement with the factory workers this spring, and Marchiony said KU officials addressed the issue with Adidas during negotiations.

“We discussed it several times,” Marchiony said. “But not only did they show that they were also concerned about it, but we also knew there was more to the story than what was written.”

In this instance, KU officials say, the “best deal” also included the care Adidas has shown while servicing the Jayhawks’ non-revenue sports. That factor was a important part of the original deal.

“The fact that Adidas eagerly sought to extend our partnership,” Zenger said, “(It) clearly demonstrates to us their continued understanding of the tremendous value of the entire Kansas athletics program.”