You won’t get far on any given day in most cities in the world without seeing Nike’s famous swoosh or Adidas’ three stripes. More than just sporting brands, the footwear and clothes of these companies have become fashion statements. The two brands are the biggest of their kind, although sporting goods newbie Under Armour has threatened to take the number two spot – in the U.S. at least. But on a global scale, Under Armour can’t compete just yet with these two behemoths. Right now the focus of the leading two brands is China’s 415 million millennials. Maybe we’ll have a better idea of who will take over China after today’s episode of the Infographics Show, Nike vs Adidas.
Let’s first have a look at how these companies got off the ground. Nike is an incredible success story, given that before it appeared on the scene, Adidas and Puma owned the market. Nike changed that pretty quickly. The company was founded on January 25, 1964, when businessman Phil Knight and track coach/running shoe enthusiast Bill Bowerman got together to build the perfect and affordable athletics shoe. Prior to its independence, Nike, then called Blue Ribbon Sports, operated under Japanese sporting goods firm, Tiger, which is now known as ASICS. In 1966, BRS opened its first store, and in 1971 it changed its name to Nike and also created the swoosh most everybody knows of today. That swoosh cost Nike 35 bucks to design, and was created by a Portland State University graphic design student. Nike took off as fast as its runners, and by 1980 it had half of the U.S. athletic shoe market. In the late 80s and 90s, Nike began its global dominance, and its products are now available in virtually every country in the world. In undeveloped nations, if you don’t see a Nike store, you will still find people wearing the products.
Adidas starts as a family story. The founder, Adolf Dassler, began making shoes in his mother’s kitchen. At the same time, his brother Rudolphe was working with their father at a footwear factory. Later, the brothers started working together. At the 1936 Olympics in Germany, young Adolf Dassler made a great move by finding American sprinter Jesse Owens and convincing him to wear the spiked shoes he had made. Owens won four golds and Adolf and his brother almost immediately became famous all over the world. By 1939, the two brothers were producing and selling around 200,000 pairs of shoes a year. At the time, the shoes were simply products of the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory. That would soon change. In 1947, the brothers split on not very good terms. Adolf Dassler named his company Adi-Das and his bother Rudolphe Dassler started a company called Ruda, which later became Puma – a household name today.
Now let’s look at some numbers. Nike, named after the Greek Goddess of Victory, lives up to its name. It’s currently on Forbes’ list as the biggest sporting goods company in the world. Forbes put the value of Nike at $27 billion for the year 2016.
Adidas is in third place, according to Forbes, and second place is ESPN. So, in terms of clothing and footwear, Adidas is really second. Although its value is far behind Nike, at just $7 billion. Under Armor comes behind Adidas with a worth of $5.5 billion, and Reebok (which is actually owned by Adidas), comes way behind again with a value of $800 million.
According to Nike’s manufacturing map, its products are made in 42 countries. It has 566 factories and employs a little over 1 million people (1,015,696 people). We must say here that Nike is well known for having factories in developing nations, sometimes paying its workers low wages in not too great conditions. Nike has made attempts to clean up its image, but according to critics, it hasn’t done enough. Only this year, people all over the world, in cities such as Boston, Washington D.C., Bangalore, and San Pedro Sula in Honduras, protested in the street over Nike’s sweatshops. Nike needs a lot of workers, given that research says that the company sells 25 pairs of sneakers every second of every day. Altogether, Business Insider wrote in 2016 that Nike sold 900 million products in one year. That included everything under the Nike brand name.
According to Statistica, Adidas employs just over 60,000 people worldwide. It actually has more factories than Nike does, with 1,000 independent factories in 60 countries, according to its own website. It too has come under scrutiny for the working conditions in the factories that are mostly in developing nations, but Adidas has also been praised for its transparency. Recent stories suggest that jobs are coming back to Germany as Adidas improves its highly advanced factory there where robots do much of the work. Adidas sells around 250 million pairs of shoes a year. This also include soccer shoes, or boots. We cannot find any sources for the total number of Adidas products sold.
As for sneakers, Yahoo Finance says Adidas is making some distance in catching up to Nike. Its market share went up from 6.3 percent in 2016 to 11.3 percent in 2017. Nike’s went down from 35.9 percent to 34.7 percent. Yahoo points out, “The biggest reason Adidas is on the rise is because of an industry trend that benefits the brand: casual sportswear.” Apparently, Adidas is just cooler leisurewear, while Nike stays sports focused. According to some media, Kanye West’s partnership with Adidas has helped the company a lot.
According to a 2016 story by Quartz, Adidas also dominates the retro scene. In 2016, its Adidas Superstar was the top selling sneaker in the U.S., but look at the rest of the list and Nike dominates the lower positions. In 2017, it looks as though Nike’s Tanjun sneaker is going to take the number one spot, but we still have some time to go. As for each company’s diamond product in terms of sales and popularity, it seems for Adidas that’s its Stan Smith sneakers, first designed in 1973, and a shoe that just never goes out of fashion. For Nike, its various Nike Air shoes have been a big seller for a long time, although we can’t get an exact number of pairs sold throughout all iterations.
Adidas made the headlines this year when it was reported that finally it had knocked Nike Air Jordan’s from the number one spot, thanks in part to some strong endorsements. When most websites talk about the world’s most important sneaker of all time, they are usually referring to America. The word sneaker is primarily American and most websites that write on this topic are American. This does make some sense as the U.S. is the world’s biggest sporting goods market. Time magazine created a list of the most important sneakers of all time. This included Nike Air Jordan, Nike Air Max, Nike Cortez, Adidas Superstars, and Adidas Stan Smith. Unfortunately, there is no definitive list of the best-selling sports shoes of all time. We’ll let you debate what the best sneaker of all time is and perhaps you can come to an agreement.
So, which brand do you prefer, and why? Let us know in the comments!