Nike finds itself undoubtedly as the best sports brand in the world. With an estimated net worth of 36.8 billion dollars Nike is bar far the most valuable sportswear company, more than doubling the net worth of Adidas, it's closest competitor. With almost 100 million Instagram followers Nike has proven itself to be a popular brand. Known primarily for their shoes Nike has expanded into clothing and some sports equipment. Priding itself on innovation, Nike has been at the forefront of sports technology since its founding in 1964 as a track and field shoe company. Nike is also known for its big name endorsements with athletes including Lebron James, Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, and Colin Kaepernick. Nike has diversified itself in university sponsorships. The University of Oregon is the most well-known Nike sponsor as the school was also the location of the brand's founding. Nike has a sponsorship with over 52% of FBS College Football programs and is the sole manufacturer of jerseys for Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League among other professional teams.
Adidas, founded in 1949 as a European sports shoe brand, has been a staple of international sports, especially European Football (soccer). In recent years Adidas has been a close competitor to Nike and a secondary brand in terms of finances and popularity. Like Nike, Adidas began with footwear exclusively and focused on one sport, soccer, but over the years the brand has expanded to all sports and to equipment as well as clothing. Adidas's focus has continued to be soccer, designing and manufacturing the official FIFA World Cup ball starting in 1970. Adidas is most famous for sponsoring Lionel Messi, one of the most decorated soccer players in history. Other sponsored athletes include baseball's Kris Bryant, Hockey's Sidney Crosby and Football's Von Miller. Adidas has university sponsorships as well, including Louisville University, The University of Miami and Mississippi State. Adidas has established itself as a fashion brand as well as a sports brand, most recently collaborating with the artist Beyonce Knowles on a fashion line. Though it plays second-fiddle to the more popular Nike, Adidas is a well established sports brand in its own right.
Puma has had a resurgence in recent years. In 2019 Puma made Forbes Fab 40 for the first time and reported 74% increase in shares as opposed to 46% for Adidas and 25% for Nike. Founded by the Dassler brothers in their home in Germany in 1919 Puma took a few years to become a major shoe brand but once they did their growth was large. Famously, Jesse Owens wore Dassler brand spikes in his historic victories at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. In 1948 the official Puma brand was born and began the production of soccer cleats. These grew in popularity both within Germany and internationally. Considered the best soccer player of all time, Pele wore the Puma brand in his World Cup matches for Brazil. Today Puma still specializes in shoes, especially soccer and track and field, but has developed into a major international clothing brand. For instance, Rihanna has a deal with Puma and has produced her fenty line of clothing with the company. Though Puma works with the London College of Fashion on their designs they do not have major university sponsorships. On the professional level, Puma's most famous athlete is Usain Bolt, who has worn Puma spikes in multiple World Record Olympic races.
4. Under Armour
Under Armour was born in 1996 out of one product, a skintight shirt called "the shorty" that was designed to wick off sweat faster than other athletic shirts. Out of that was born the Baltimore based company specializing in under wear meant to keep athletes dry, cool or warm, depending on the product and situation. After an appearance in the film "Friday Night Lights," the company's products started to soar. In the two decades since its inception Under Armour has expanded into footwear, starting with a football cleat and ultimately growing to running shoes, basketball sneakers and more. Under Armour penned a college sponsorship with the University of Maryland, where the company was born, and has expanded to other schools, UCLA, Notre Dame, Army, Hawaii and Wisconsin to name a few. Famous athletes sponsored by the company include Tom Brady of the NFL, Stephen Curry of the NBA and Bryce Harper in the MLB. Tom Brady's wife, Gisele Bundchen is a sponsored non-athlete, as is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, the former WWE wrestler and movie star.
Along with Nike, Adidas, and Puma, Reebok is considered one of the major sports shoe ware companies of the twentieth century. Founded under a different name in 1895, "Reebok" was born in 1958, named after an African Antelope. In the 1970s and 80s Reebok expanded into the US and its profits began to boom. Reebok made clear that it had three focuses for growth. The first was exercise, the second was the increase of women in sport and third was streetwear, also called casual wear. In 2005 Adidas bought Reebok but the two brands, now merged, continued to be branded separately. Reebok's boom occured in the 1990s and because of this their famous athletic sponsorships include Shaquille O'neal of the NBA, Venus Williams and the Manning brothers, Payton and Eli. Today Reebok is still the official sponsor of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Currently Reebok has no collegiate sponsorships though for a brief period in the early 2000's Reebok was the uniform designer for Boston College.
Unlike other major sportswear brands, New Balance was not founded with sports in mind. In 1906 it was founded by William J. Riley and focused on orthopedics and foot support for working class people such as police officers. In the late 1950s athletes started to ask for New Balance. In 1961 the company, under new management, released the New Balance Trackster, a high performance shoe for running, built with traction in mind. The company was sold once again but maintained its focus on high performance running shoes. Today, New Balance has footwear in running, baseball, and basketball to name a few. The British founded company has sponsorships with many of the UK's track athletes and recently signed star basketball player Kawhi Leonard to a basketball shoe deal, making him one of the faces of the company. New Balance provides equipment, especially shoes, to some universities but does not have a sponsorship with any today, having a deal with Central Michigan University until 2009.
Jordan is perhaps the most well-known shoe brand in the world. Founded when Michael Jordan created a signature shoe with Nike, the Air Jordan 1, the Jordan Brand has grown into one of the biggest in the world. Though owned by Nike, the Jordan Brand alone reported over 3 billion dollars of revenue in 2019. When a new Jordan shoe is released lines form in shoe stores across the world for people to get a chance to buy the shoes. With rare Jordans going for thousands and thousands of dollars on different sneaker markets, the brand revolutionized the sneaker business and made Michael Jordan the most money on a sneaker deal by more than double his nearest competitor. Michael Jordan, the face and logo of the brand, is their most famous athlete but others who represent the brand include Zion Williamson and Jason Taytum of the NBA, Derek Jeter in the MLB. Famous people all over the world wear Jordans. Spike Lee is known to wear colorful pairs courtside at Knicks games and he donned Golden Jordan shoes at the Oscar Awards. Schools affiliated directly with Jordan, not Nike, include the alma matter of the brand's namesake, North Carolina, and the University of Michigan.
Though in 2020 Champion is known as a more upscale streetwear brand, with tracksuits and jackets, it was founded in 1919 for the University of Michigan. Quickly Champion became known for being the brand of choice of collegiate bookstores across the country. The brand was known for knitwear: socks, sweatpants and sweatshirts especially. The Champion logo has become well-known, the blue and red "C" with a line in the middle. In the 1960s the brand partnered both with the NCAA and NFL to provide uniforms to teams in both. More recently, in the early 2000s, the brand was the official equipment provider for Purdue University as well as Notre Dame and Minnesota. Celebrities such as Chance the Rapper have been seen sporting Champion brand as have countless athletes who, though not sponsored, have worn the clothing on their way into a stadium. With earnings of over two billion in its centennial year, the Hanesbrand owned clothing brand by far exceeded expectations and has cemented itself as a brand at the forefront of the sportswear fashion industry, making a comeback that few could have seen coming.
Unlike other companies, Columbia, which has sportswear in the name, emphasizes the outdoors and hiking more than anything else. Started in 1938 in Oregon as a hat manufacturer, Columbia grew into an apparel empire, accumulating a net worth of 6.3 Billion in early 2020. Columbia apparel owns other mountaineering sports apparel companies including HardWare, SOREL, and PrAna. Hiking boots are a big part of Columbia Sportswear's profits, as the popularity of outdoor sports has grown. Columbia also sells cold weather gear, watches, backpacks, and anything else someone might need for outdoor activities. Columbia's biggest sponsorship deals are with professional sports fishers and golfers, though none are considered household names. Though some may argue it's place on a list of sports brands, Columbia is an international powerhouse in the outdoor sports market and rightfully belongs on the list.
Much like Columbia Sportswear Patagonia is a brand most known for their outdoor adventure clothing. Founded by Yvon Chouinard, a climber, in 1953 the brand was unlike others in that it did not start with clothing, starting instead with climbing equipment, pitons to be exact. Before Chouinard, pitons were placed into a rock for climbing and left there but his invention of sturdy pitons that could be reused fueled a business that boomed in the second half of the twentieth century. Then, the well-known climber decided to start wearing more colorful clothing when he climbed, something that spiked the interest of his climbing friends. Soon a clothing brand was born, one that he named Patagonia. From that day forward Patagonia has been at the forefront of colorful, weather resistant and environmentally friendly clothing for outdoor activities such as climbing. Yvon Chouinard built his company until he was worth just over a billion dollars, with Patagonia at the forefront of sustainable clothing manufacturing. Today Patagonia sponsored athletes include climbers, flyfishers, surfers, snowboarders and ultra-marathon runners. The company has maintained popularity over the years as the leading brand for outdoor sports.