Adidas And The Biggest Business ‘Fail’ Of All Time
If you were like most Americans this past weekend, you more than likely had to deal with the inevitable Monday-morning quarterbacking that follows a busted bracket. ESPN estimated that of the 11.5 million people that filled out brackets at their website prior to the tournament starting, 1 person still has a chance at a perfect bracket.
Why didn’t you see UAB over Iowa State coming? …
So much for that deep Virginia run. …
Villanova in the Final Four?
Man, that was dumb.
And so on, and so on.
Well, according to a Wall Street Journal article published Monday, that’s pretty much how Adidas has felt for the past 30 years. You see, in entering the 1984-85 NBA season, the shoe manufacturer was approached by the agent of an NBA rookie with the idea of the young guard being the spokesman for the company's line of basketball shoes and also with the possibility of producing a signature shoe for the rookie.
A rookie who had averaged "only" 17 points per game in college
A rookie who had just been the third overall pick in the 1984 draft...by the Chicago Bulls.
The shoe giant reportedly turned down the one and only Michael Jordan for an endorsement contract before Jordan’s rookie season. But why did the Company pass on arguably the best player in basketball history, creating possibly the largest business fau paux in history?
Well, at the time Michael Jordan was a rookie guard who had spent only 2 years at North Carolina and who had averaged 17 points per game in college. As the saying goes, the only person in the world that could hold Jordan under 20 points per game was Tarheel head coach Dean Smith. Plus, according to the experts at Addidas, the 6-foot-6 future Hall of Famer wasn’t quite tall enough for the German company’s liking.
According to Adidas, the shoe company felt the future of the NBA was big men. They felt that shoe shoppers would associate better with players in the 7-foot range. At the time, Adidas' main spokesperson was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, center for the L.A. Lakers.
“Adidas distributors wanted to sign Mr. Jordan, says someone who was an Adidas distributor then. But executives in Germany decided shoppers would favor taller players and wanted to sponsor centers"
Adidas signed mainly the centers of the era, including Abdul-Jabbar, it still sells sneakers named for him. Mr. Jordan in 1984 signed with Nike, which built his name into a blockbuster basketball business.
Soon after turning down Jordan, the company signed Portland Trail Blazer Sam Bowie, who was selected ahead of Jordan in the 1984 NBA draft. Bowie would go on to become arguably the biggest bust in NBA history, as injuries limited him to career averages of 10 points and 7 rebounds per game.
Yeah, that might not have been the best call.
Jordan, of course, went on to become one of the most successful, and profitable, athletes of all time, his 'Air Jordan' line having eclipsed more than $23 billion in sales for Nike. Jordan still earns close to $80 million a year from Nike, recently becoming the first professional athlete to be listed on Forbes list of American Billionaires.
Seeing as how the quoted article was entitled “How Adidas Aims to Get Its Cool Back,” the three-stripe brand has seen better days.