Adidas To Become First Brand to Live Stream High School Football on Twitter

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Adidas (in collaboration with Intersport) will become the first brand to “live stream high school football games on Twitter”, when it kicks off its “Friday Night Stripes” series on September 7th. The 8-game showcase will feature weekly match-ups between nationally ranked programs nationwide. Live streams of the game feed will include a twitter timeline featuring “real-time conversation about the action.”

Howie Long-Short: Game coverage will be accessed by visiting @AdidasFBallUS, so Adidas should see their Twitter following rise. That should suit ADDYY well, as the company has done a good job (at least relative to NKE) converting brand sales once customers are on their site. It’s worth pointing out that H1 footwear sales rose +20% (see: retro) and apparel did even better, on the back of a strong World Cup (sold record 8 million jerseys).

Stephen Wilmot (WSJ) made a strong argument that ADDYY shares are undervalued. Even after an 8% jump on August 9th (following earnings), Adidas is trading at just 23x prospective earnings; compared to Nike’s 29x. That’s despite Adidas growing sales (16% vs. 3% in U.S.) and profits faster than their rival, not having to deal with any potential #MeToo backlash or increase employee wages. Shares closed at $119.02 on Tuesday.

For those wondering, Intersport creates sports marketing platforms. While you may know them as the company behind the 3x3U basketball tournament for college seniors (held at Final Four), they own one of the most infamous pieces of video footage in sports history. Intersport was the only production company rolling on January 6, 1994 when Nancy Kerrigan was attacked with a police baton. The company has said it’s earned 7-figures from licensing the footage, receiving $10,000-$15,000 (or $250/second) each time it’s used.

Fan Marino: Fans of youth sports are going to experience a sharp increase in the number of games available to a broadcast audience over the next several years, as OTT platforms give rights holders the ability to reach niche audiences directly. How long before high school kids start complaining they aren’t being fairly compensated for their name, image and likeness?

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Adidas to Replace Puma as Arsenal Kit Manufacturer, Shares Rise +8% on Q2 Earnings

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Arsenal has agreed to a 5-year $385 million kit deal with Adidas that will replace the club’s existing pact with Puma, at the completion of this season. Adidas will pay +/- $77 million/season (beginning in ‘19) to become the official kit provider of the Gunners, double what Puma had been paying. The deal is being touted as the 3rd most valuable kit pact in the world, behind just Nike’s agreement with Barcelona ($134.5 million/season) and Adidas’ contract with Manchester United ($96 million/season).

Howie Long-Short: Adidas (ADDYY) issued Q2 earnings on Thursday, reporting group sales rose 10% YoY (to $6 billion) during the most recent quarter. North America (+16%), Greater China (+27%) and the e-commerce sector drove the growth. Perhaps ADDYY’s most impressive feat has been continuing to grow the top line without resorting to discounts; the company reported gross margins rose +2.2% (to 52.3%) in the quarter ended in June, as the company continues to sell shoes at full-price. Shares increased +8% on Thursday’s report, closing at $119.89.

Stephen Wilmot (WSJ) made a strong argument that ADDYY shares are undervalued. Even after Thursday’s 8% jump, Adidas is trading at just 23x prospective earnings; compared to Nike’s 29x. That’s despite Adidas growing sales (16% vs. 3% in U.S.) and profits faster than their rival, not having to deal with any potential #MeToo backlash or increase employee wages.

Fan Marino: The newfound revenue should give Arsenal additional cash for transfers next summer. It’s been reported that new manager Unai Emery was given just $90 million to work with during this summer’s window.

Arsenal will become the 7th Premier League team to be outfitted by the German footwear and apparel company, joining Manchester United, Leicester City, Cardiff, Fulham, Watford and Wolves.

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Rice Commission Recommends Summer Camps as Alternative to Shoe-Sponsored Tournaments

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The NCAA Commission on College Basketball has recommended the installation of regulated summer camps to help offset the number of shoe-sponsored tournaments (think: AAU) that top prospects participate in. Seeking to stem the influence shoe companies have over players within the recruiting process, the Rice Commission has proposed regional events that would be run by USA basketball and supersede (in terms of talent/coaches attending) existing tournaments. The Commission isn’t recommending the elimination of all shoe-company sponsored events though, as the proposed camps would only account for +/- 15% of the prospects in a given class; USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley explained, “our job is to help grow the game, not stifle it.” Recommendations are expected to be voted on within the next 30 days; if approved, the changes could be implemented in time for summer ’19.

Howie Long-Short: Nike, Adidas and Under Armour are all active on the travel basketball circuit, each running their own leagues.

On May 3rd, Adidas reported that efficiency savings drove bottom line growth +17% (to $647 million) in Q1 ’18. Accounting for currency effects, sales rose roughly 10% YoY (to $6.4 billion) with the company’s Adidas Originals line and running, training and soccer verticals driving the growth. North American sales rose +21% YoY and sales in China rose +26% YoY; Asia-Pacific (+15%) and Latin America (+10%) also experienced double-digit growth during the most recent quarter. NPD Group Analyst Matt Powell is reporting that “H1 footwear sales are up more than 20%; apparel even better.” The company will publish H1 financial results on August 9th.

Nike (NKE) reported fiscal Q4 earnings on June 29th. News of sales growth in North America (+3%) following 3 straight declining quarters, increased revenue growth guidance for fiscal ‘19 and a $15 billion share buyback plan sent shares rising +11% to an all-time high ($81.00). The share price has declined -4.5% since, closing on July 30th at $75.96.

Under Amour (UAA) is the most recent shoe/apparel company to post financials, having done so on July 26th. While the company’s U.S. business failed to gain much momentum (+1.6% YoY), international sales surged (+28% YoY) during Q2 ‘18 and the company managed to reduce excess inventory; news that was welcomed by investors, as shares rose 5% on the report.

Of course, Q2 wasn’t a “victory” for UAA, the company reported a quarterly net loss of $95.5 million and announced it would be committing another $80 million (in addition to the $130 million it already committed) to its long-term restructuring efforts. Despite the heavy spending on a turnaround (focus going from men to women/kids, $80-$100 price point) and continuing headwinds (think: leisure over performance), UAA shares are up +39% YTD; closing on Monday at $20.11.

Fan Marino: The NCAA is likely to continue allowing coaches to attend shoe-sponsored tournaments in April (at least for now), so the Commission’s recommendations are just for the July recruiting period. While that makes little sense (and is unlikely to curb corruption), the NCAA is already complaining that the $9 million price tag to replace the summer’s recruiting events is prohibitive; they certainly won’t go for the spring events too, at least not now. It’s tough to pity the NCAA though knowing the organization takes in +/- $1 billion in media rights revenue annually through 2032.

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Adidas Tempers World Cup Sales Expectations

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Adidas AG (ADDYY) has tempered merchandise sales expectations in Russia for this summer’s World Cup, citing international sanctions (see: Ukraine crisis) that have weakened the ruble as declining oil prices have slowed the Russian economy. In 2014, (hosted Sochi Olympics) ADDYY had over 1,100 stores across Russia/CIS, but over the last 4 years the company has closed 500 of them and reallocated the marketing dollars accordingly. The absence of several prominent teams (see: U.S., Italy, Netherlands) is also expected to have a negative impact on merchandise sales.

Howie Long-Short: Though Adidas currently does just “a little more than half” the sales total it did during its ‘14 peak ($1.3 billion, 3x Nike’s total w/in market) in Russia, the company now operates at higher margins in the region as a result of strict cost discipline and an increase in pricing. Adidas reported a -16% sales decline in Russia/CIS (and -5% decline in EMEA) in Q1 ’18 with CEO Kasper Rorsted attributing the disappointing result to “challenging market conditions”.

Though Adidas has acknowledged it won’t approach the total sales figures that it did in ’14 (Brazil), the company is expecting sales of team soccer jerseys (the most popular merchandise item) to set a record during this World Cup. Twelve (up from 9 at ’14 WC) of the 32 teams competing in Russia (including the host country) will be wearing ADDYY kits, the most of any apparel provider (Nike is 2nd with 10 teams). For reference purposes, ADDYY sold 8 million jerseys in 2014.

It’s worth noting that Adidas is also the manufacturer of the official match ball. German soccer consultant PR Marketing projects the company will sell 10 million balls after moving 14 million “Brazuca” balls in ‘14.

On May 3rd, Adidas reported that efficiency savings drove bottom line growth +17% (to $647 million) in Q1 ’18. Accounting for currency effects, sales rose roughly 10% YoY (to $6.4 billion) with the company’s Adidas Originals line and running, training and soccer verticals driving the growth. North American sales rose +21% YoY and sales in China rose +26% YoY, with the Asia-Pacific (+15%) and Latin America (+10%) markets also experiencing double-digit growth during the most recent quarter. ADDYY shares are down -16.5% over the last 2 months, but remain +10.5% YTD; closing on Tuesday at $110.28.

Fan Marino: The U.S. team’s absence from the tournament may hurt total merchandise sales, but it hasn’t had a negative impact on domestic viewership through the first 4 days. Matches on Fox and FS1 have averaged 2.24 million viewers (including 4 million+ for Germany/Mexico & Brazil/Switzerland), a 32% increase over the Group Stage average from the last 4 World Cups combined.

Telemundo (CMCSA) is experiencing similar success thus far. The network drew 6.56 million TV viewers for the Mexico/Germany game, making it the most watched Group Stage match in Spanish-language TV history and the most watched sporting event in network history.

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Fashion Labels Take Activewear Market Share, Activewear Brands Now Reside on 5th Ave

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Activewear brands and the retailers who sell their products have had a difficult start to 2018, as sales were “essentially flat between February and April.” NPD Group senior sports industry advisor Matt Powell attributes the struggles to “the proliferation of fashion brands emulating performance wear” (think: Moncler’s Grenoble collection, BIT: MONC); including high fashion labels like Isabel Marant that are now launching activewear lines. It’s not just the athleticwear labels (think: Under Armour – UAA, Columbia – COLM) that are hurting from the industry crossover though, athletic specialty/sporting goods stores are also struggling as “department stores now capture more activewear sales than the true sports channels.” Activewear is the fashion industry’s fastest growing category, expected to grow 6-7% in ’18; compared with 2-3% for the balance of the fashion and footwear industry.

Howie Long-Short: One company that has not been negatively impacted by the trend is Lululemon Athletica. LULU posted “astonishing” Q1 ’18 results, before increasing its full year financial forecast. Net income grew +141% YoY (to $75.2 million) on revenue that rose +25% YoY (to $649.7 million), with e-commerce growth (+62% YoY), new customer acquisition (+28% YoY, 30% of which were men) and a significant rise in gross margin (from 49.4% to 53.1%) highlighting the quarter. Shares popped 16% (to $122.19) following the June 1st report; they’re up 55% YTD and 135% over the last 12 months despite the February resignation of CEO Laurent Potdevin (workplace misconduct) and other public missteps (think: see-through tights). Adidas (ADDYY), Champion (HBI) and Patagonia were also all strong performers within the activewear category during the first quarter.

Fan Marino: While fashion brands are working to take activewear market share, activewear companies are taking up residency on 5thAvenue (NYC) alongside high-fashion retailers. Why? As Powell explains, “to be next to some of the most prestigious names in the industry really elevates the prestige of the athletic brands.” Adidas, Asics (TYO: 7936) and The North Face (VFC) already have stores open on 5th Avenue, Nike (NKE) and Under Armour have signed leases on space and Puma just announced it’ll be opening a 24,000 SF retail store on the street.

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Bradley Chubb Discusses the Value of His Name and Likeness

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Panini America is the exclusive trading card partner of the NFL and NFLPA. Denver Broncos 1st round selection Bradley Chubb (#5 overall) was in Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon, at the NFLPA Rookie Premier and found some time to talk with JohnWallStreet about the value of his name and likeness and the marketing deals he’s signed since turning pro.

JWS: Panini digital trading cards enable players to capitalize on draft night excitement. Did having near-instant access to shareable team branded content help you build your social media following in the minutes/hours after the Commissioner called your name?

Bradley: It did, it built it up a lot for me. It helped me build my brand and helped people to see who I was. When the Broncos made the pick, I know everybody wanted to see the card. I feel like when they (Panini) pushed that out, it helped me out a lot; I got like 50,000 followers. 

JWS: You signed a shoe and apparel contract with Adidas. Basketball players tend to begin relationships with sneaker companies on the AAU level. When did you first begin to use Adidas products?

Bradley: I used Adidas all throughout college. NC State was an Adidas school, so that’s when I really started using the brand and fell in love with it. In high school, I had teammates that would wear Adidas but I always had Nike because I got cleats from my brother. He was at Wake Forest (Nike school) and was giving me his extra cleats.

JWS: Baker Mayfield suggested that if you added up all the marketing deals he’s signed since turning pro, that they would be worth $1 million – $2 million. Does the consensus (minus Cleveland) top defensive player in the draft command similar numbers?

Bradley: No, he’s a quarterback (and Heisman winner) – it definitely goes up for him. As a defensive guy, I made a good amount of money; but, I don’t think it was in the millions or anything like that.       

Editor Note: It’s worth pointing out that in addition to Bradley’s Panini America and Adidas (ADDYY) deals, he’s done marketing deals with both Bose and Old Spice (PG).

Howie Long-Short: As a consensus Top 5 pick, Bradley could have hired a contract attorney, negotiated his own rookie contract and saved himself at least 1% (as much as 3%) in agent fees. Chubb said he never considered doing that, explaining he was “more comfortable” going with his brother’s agent; Erik Burkhardt of Select Sports Group. I would have advised against it (see: rookie scale), but Bradley shouldn’t have any financial issues; he’s going to sign a rookie deal with a total contract value +/- $27.5 million.

Fan Marino: Panini’s trading card index (released quarterly) ranks the top-performing football players in the licensed trading card industry, on factors ranging from secondary-market transactions to collectability based on rookie hype and collector speculation. The newest ranking, released on May 16th, has Chubb as the 11th ranked rookie (top 10 were offensive players); behind 2nd round pick Nick Chubb (his cousin, Browns) and 3rd round pick Mason Rudolph (Steelers). I asked Bradley, if he were to win NFL defensive rookie of the year, how high does he think he could reach on the list?

Bradley: “Pretty high. It just depends on if I go out there and handle business. I mean, it’s good to say all this stuff before the season – if I just go out there and focus on what is important, all the stuff like this (the accolades) will come later.”

Fan: Bigger deal for you? Meeting Von Miller or John Elway?

Bradley: Definitely, John Elway. I met him at the combine and I was star struck.

Looking for Chubb’s rookie card? You can get Panini’s NFL trading card products online at iCollectPanini.com, hobby shops nationwide and retailers including Walmart and Target.

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Skechers Files Federal Lawsuit Against Adidas, Claims NCAA Corruption Diminished Brand Value

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Skechers USA, Inc. has filed a federal lawsuit against Adidas America, Inc. (ADDYY) claiming financial damages stemming from illegal payments made by ADDYY company executives to college basketball recruits and/or their families. The suit claims Adidas “denied competitors like Skechers who play by the rules a fair opportunity to compete for the cachet of having trend-setting high-school and college athletes seen in their products, effectively blocked Skechers and other companies from competing on a level playing field for young NBA-level endorsers, and unfairly bolstered consumer perceptions of Adidas’ overall brand quality and image well beyond the basketball footwear market.” The company seeks to recover “Adidas’ ill-gotten profits, damages for lost sales and diminished brand value and an injunction preventing Adidas from making further illegal, undisclosed endorsement payments to amateur basketball players.” ADDYY has since put out a statement calling the complaint “frivolous”, “nonsensical” and has asked that it be “summarily dismissed”.

Howie Long-Short: Adidas wasn’t following NCAA guidelines (neither was Nike) and Skechers added accusations of “false advertising” and “unfair competition”, but it’s difficult to see how they can prove ADDYY’s actions damaged their brand’s reputation. Adidas, Nike and Under Armour were wise to invest in the grass roots level, spent heavily to acquire valuable sneaker/apparel rights on the college level and now control the market when players turn pro. There was nothing preventing Skechers from pursuing multi-million dollar agreements with college programs (or working on product design, adding influencers etc.), besides their lack of fiscal resources relative to the competition; Adidas generated $20 billion in 2017 revenue while Skechers brought in a small fraction of that ($4.2 billion) amount.

These 2 companies have had a history of battling it out in court that dates to 1995. On the same day that Skechers filed this suit, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held up a ruling that will prevent Skechers from selling a shoe that looks nearly identical to Adidas’ popular Stan Smith line. The day wasn’t a complete loss for Skechers though, the court reversed an injunction that had prevented them from selling their Cross Court model; one that contains a 3 stripe design on the side.

Fan Marino: I first learned that Skechers (best known for mom sneakers) was still making basketball shoes when it was disclosed that Big Ball Brand was collaborating with Brandblack, a Skechers backed company founded by David Raysse (former head of Adidas basketball), on the ZO2 Remix (Lonzo Ball’s signature shoe) and Melo Ball 1 (LaMelo Ball’s signature shoe). While Lonzo Ball is certainly the highest profile player to wear a Brandblack made shoe on the court, Jamal Crawford (T-Wolves) and Josh Smith (currently unsigned) have both worn Brandblack sneakers in the past; Crawford has since signed with Adidas. Skechers has endorsement deals in place with retired legends Karl Malone, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Larry Bird, but there is no indication the company has ever tried to compete for active NBA players.

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Kyrie Only Signature Basketball Sneaker to Grow Sales in 2017, No Adidas Stars in Top 5

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According to the NPD Group, LeBron James had the top-selling signature basketball sneaker line of 2017, as Nike continued its domination of the $1 billion performance shoe market. 73.5% of all basketball sneakers sold in 2017 were made by Nike, with that figure ballooning to 81.3% if you count pairs sold by corporate subsidiary Jordan Brand (7.8%). Kyrie Irving (Nike) had the 2nd best-selling shoe, for the 2nd year in a row; with Kevin Durant (Nike), Stephen Curry (Under Armour) and Michael Jordan (Jordan Brand) rounding out the Top 5. It should be noted that Irving was the only player on the list to grow sales YoY, as performance basketball shoe sales have declined -13% from their 2015 peak ($1.3 billion).

Howie Long-Short: Nike controls the performance basketball sneaker game, but it’s sports leisure and retro that is in fashion; which explains why Adidas (see: Stan Smith, NMD, Superstar) shares are +17.5% YTD, while Nike trails behind at +6.9%. Adidas (ADDYY) just reported Q1 ’18 revenue grew 10% YoY, with North American sales up +21% YoY; for comparison purposes, NKE sales declined -6%, UAA was flat during the 1st 3 months of the year.

It’s worth pointing out that Adidas did not have a signature basketball performance shoe among 2017’s best sellers, despite having MVP front-runner James Harden on the payroll. Derrick Rose (post injury) and Damian Lillard are 2 other guys that fail to move the needle for the company.

Fan Marino: Curry falling from 3rd in ’16 to 4th in ’17 is disappointing, if not unsurprising, news for Under Armour; which overestimated consumer demand for the Curry 4. In wake of the disappointing release, UAA performance basketball shoe sales dipped -39% in 2017. The company now controls just 12.1% of the market.

While Jordan hasn’t laced up in 15 years, the AJ32 technically counts as his signature shoe. Retro AJ models aren’t counted in signature basketball sneaker sales figures, but if they were, Jordan would be running away with 1st place. The retro market did $3 billion in 2017 sales, 3x performance; and Jordan Brand took in 65% of that revenue.

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Fanatics to Take on Nike, Adidas, Under Armour

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Aston Villa Football Club (AVFC) has announced that Fanatics, Inc. will replace Under Armour as the exclusive licensing rights holder for all club merchandise, in time for the 2018-2019 season; but, unlike traditional sports merchandising deals, the company logo will not adorn team gear. Instead, the online retailer of licensed sports apparel will negotiate separate pacts for various pieces of merchandise (think: match-day kit, practice gear, fan apparel) with multiple 3rd parties. The rising value of kit sponsorship deals for the world’s most prominent clubs and the resources required to turn a profit on those partnerships, have left second-tier clubs like Villa with little marketing attention, less merchandise to sell and inevitably depressed revenues; opening the door for a new entrant. With the deal, Villa becomes the first English club to adopt the manufacturing model used in North American sports; Fanatics will manage everything from production to point of sale (including the Villa Park store and e-commerce platforms).

Howie Long-Short: This deal is sensible from the Fanatics perspective because it requires minimal capital expenditure to enter the potentially lucrative English football market. Villa’s status as a second-tier club meant that Fanatics faced little competition for the rights; and the company already maintains production and warehousing facilities in the U.K., properties acquired in their $225 million acquisition of Majestic Athletic. It remains to be seen if the club can increase merchandise sales without a major sportswear label’s logo on their products (hint: they will be), but if successful, sponsorship rights will continue to rise as the traditional players (NKE, ADDYY) look to retain control over the apparel space. Much like cable television providers and sports broadcast rights, the current establishment can’t afford to lose their association with sports teams/leagues and still manage to hit their growth targets.

There are several ways to play Fanatics, as Bank of America (BAC), Alibaba Group Holdings (BABA) and Softbank (SFTBY) are all stakeholders. In September, Softbank invested $1 billion in to the company; bring its total valuation to $4.5 billion (or +/- 2x revenue). For comparison purposes, retailers Dick’s Sporting Goods (DKS) and Hibbett Sports, Inc. (HIBB) currently have market caps ($3.33 billion, $494 million); roughly half of what they generated in 2017 sales ($7.92 billion$973 million). Of course, Fanatics is far better positioned for long-term success, maintaining (among other advantages, like a DTC model) exclusive long-term licensing agreements with all the major U.S. sports leagues through at least 2030.

Fan Marino: The team’s match-day kit is going to be designed by Luke 1977, a Birmingham based (where the team plays) premium menswear brand. The company’s logo will replace Unibet on the new design. For what it’s worth, Luke 1977 was named the ’10 Young Fashion Brand of the Year, beating out Diesel, Fred Perry and Firetrap in the process.

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Kanye West Is Not the Highest Paid Person in Footwear, Top Adidas Exec Steps down

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Kanye West made several outlandish claims on Wednesday, including an assertion that he’s “currently the single highest paid person in footwear” meaning, “I make more money on shoes than Michael Jordan.” He added that he expects his label to do $1 billion in 2018 sales (for comparison purposes, Jordan Brand did $3.1 billion in ’17), that the brand is the 2nd fastest growing business in history and that the company is on its way to becoming a decacorn ($10 billion valuation, would need to do $3 billion in sales annually). In other Adidas news, President Mark King has announced he will be stepping down effective July 1st; to be replaced by Zion Armstrong.

Howie Long-Short: Mark King has been credited with spearheading the company’s U.S. turnaround, so his loss hurts. In addition to perception changing collaborations developed with celebs like West and Pharrell Williams, he built a pipeline of desirable lifestyle (and retro) sneakers (Superstar, NMD, Stan Smith) and landed marquee sneaker and apparel contracts with Louisville, Miami, Texas A&M and Kansas.

Adidas sales were up 35% YoY in fiscal 2017, enabling the company to surpass Jordan Brand in U.S. sneaker sales and Under Armour in apparel sales. ADDYY will release Q1 ’18 earnings results on May 3rd.

Fan Marino: While it’s possible West earns more on per pair basis, there’s simply no chance he’s out-earning Jordan. His signature line is produced in such limited quantities and so few times/year (just 12x), that it couldn’t possibly generate comparable revenue. Jordan earned $110 million in 2017 royalties, 3x more than the next highest paid athlete (LeBron James). To put that number in perspective, West’s 2013 contract with Adidas in its entirety, was worth less than 10% of that figure ($10 million); he has since signed a new deal. Of course, West doesn’t just trail Jordan; he’s certainly behind Nike Chairman Emeritus Phil Knight too. Knight’s company did $34.35 million in 2017 sales. It must be noted that West has been acting erratically of late, earlier this week he fired his long-time manager Scooter Braun to “leave the traditional music business.”

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