Adidas Defies Under Armour With $1M NFL Combine Contest

By Sports FOXBusiness

NFL Combine

(Associated Press)

All eyes will be on the nation’s top football prospects at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine, but Adidas is relying on a clever marketing stunt to steal the spotlight from the event’s sponsor, Under Armour Inc. (UA).  

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Adidas is offering $1 million to any performer who breaks the NFL Combine’s record in the 40-yard dash while wearing its new “adizero 5-star 40” cleats. The current record of 4.24 seconds, set by running back Chris Johnson, has stood for eight years.

If the record stands, the 40-yard dash contest is worth an estimated $1.78 million in advertising for Adidas’ brand, according to Apex Marketing Group, an analytics firm. If the record is broken, the equivalent advertising value for Adidas spikes to $2.27 million.

Even if a new record-holder is crowned, $1 million is a small price to pay for Adidas to hijack the conversation at an Under Armour-sponsored event – especially given the heated battle for consumer interest in the crowded sports apparel industry.

“No matter what happens, for Adidas, it’s a positive,” Eric Smallwood, Apex Marketing Group’s managing director, told “People that would not be talking about Adidas associated with the Combine are talking about it.”

On a global scale, Adidas is a far larger brand than Under Armour. The German apparel company earned $19 billion in revenue for its 2015 fiscal year, compared to $3.9 billion for Under Armour.

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But Under Armour has experienced rapid growth in recent years, particularly in the crucial United States marketplace. The Maryland-based company surpassed Adidas in late 2014 to become the second-biggest sports apparel brand in the country. Adidas has been searching for ways to regain its footing with American consumers ever since.

Adidas’ aggressive efforts to promote its million-dollar 40-yard dash contest on social media are evidence of its renewed commitment. In one post, Adidas fired a thinly-veiled shot at Under Armour.

“They sponsor it, but we own it,” Adidas wrote on Twitter (TWTR). “Break the 40-yard dash record in adizero, win $1 million.”

The 40-dash promotion carries little risk. To win the money, athletes don’t just have to break a record that has stood for nearly a decade – they have to do so while wearing Adidas cleats.

Sports franchises and companies often pay for insurance on long-shot giveaways and cash contests, Smallwood said. For example, charity golf tournaments buy insurance on “hole-in-one” promotions that carry cash prizes.

A new record would also grant Adidas a ready-made marketing campaign, similar to what Puma has created around Jamaican track star Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man.

“What do they have to lose, from a marketing standpoint?” Smallwood said. “If they have somebody break the record and give $1 million, they’re going to use the heck out of that promotion. They’re going to, ideally, sign that athlete.”

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