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Nike over Adidas: German football's monumental switch

March 22, 2024

To some, it may just seem another business deal. But the German FA's decision to switch kit suppliers from Adidas to Nike has sparked heated discussion in the country. DW fills you in on the key issues.

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A Nike logo above the logo of the German national team
Germany's national teams embark on a new era in 2027 when Nike starts supplying their kits Image: Hasan Bratic/picture alliance

Why is the DFB changing its kit supplier after more than 70 years with Adidas?

The decision in favor of Nike was the "result of a transparent and non-discriminatory tender procedure," according to a DFB (German FA) statement announcing the move. "Nike made by far the best financial offer and additionally impressed with the content of their vision."

Under the deal, the US company committed not only to kitting out all DFB national teams, but also to promoting amateur football and ensuring that women's football in Germany continues to develop sustainably. The DFB did not disclose the exact amount that Nike will pay as part of the deal, which runs from 2027 to 2034. According to media reports though, the DFB stands to receive more than €100 million ($108 million) – around twice as much as it currently receives from German outfitter Adidas.

How important is the revenue from the contract to the DFB?

With more than 7.3 million members, the DFB is one of the largest single sports association in the world, but this doesn't mean it is financially strong. On the contrary, in terms of finances, the DFB is actually in serious trouble. There are several reasons for this, starting with the men's national team's poor performances at recent major tournaments. Germany failed to advance past the group stage at the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and was stopped in the round of 16 at the 2021 European Championship. As a result, the DFB only received €27 million in bonuses for these three tournaments. By comparison, between 2010, when Germany finished third in the World Cup, and 2014, when die Nationalmannschaft won it all, the DFB took in €61 million. The DFB could also face losses in the tens of millions of euros due to ongoing criminal tax proceedings against it.  The German FA is also struggling with the exploding costs of the DFB Campus. The construction of the DFB's new headquarters in Frankfurt, which was opened in 2022, set the FA back by around €180 million – twice as much as had originally been budgeted for.

The white home and pink/purple jerseys Germany will wear at EURO 2024
The announcement comes just days after Adidas unveiled the Germany strip for this summer's EurosImage: Daniel Karmann/dpa/picture alliance

What does the DFB decision mean for Adidas and Nike?

For Nike, the world's leading sporting goods supplier, the contract is a spectacular success because the alliance between the DFB and Adidas had been seen as unbreakable.

"When Nike brings out our best, no one can beat us," said Nike Group CEO John Donahoe. In 2023, the group generated sales of more than $51 billion (€47 billion), an increase of 10% compared to 2022. However, profits had fallen from $6 billion in the previous year to $5 billion.

For Adidas, the loss represents a further setback in already difficult economic times. In 2023, sales fell slightly to around €21.4 billion. For the first time in over 30 years, Adidas slipped into the red, with a loss of around €75 million euros. One of the reasons was the end of the once lucrative collaboration with US rapper Kanye West. Adidas parted ways with West in 2022 after the rapper publicly made racist and anti-Semitic comments on several occasions.

What has the reaction been in Germany?

Several German politicians have strongly criticized the move, starting with Economics Minister Robert Habeck.

"I can hardly imagine the German jersey without the three stripes," Habeck said. "Adidas and black, red and gold have always belonged together for me. A piece of German identity. I would have liked a bit more local patriotism."

Markus Söder, premier of the southern state of Bavaria, described the decision against Adidas and in favor of Nike as "wrong, a shame and incomprehensible."

"The national team plays in three stripes – that was as clear as the ball being round and a game lasting 90 minutes. German football...is not a pawn in international corporate battles. Commerce is not everything. Despite all the economic challenges, the DFB would have benefitted from more straightforwardness."

West Germany captain Fritz Walter holds the World Cup as he is carried on shoulders of fans
The Adidas connection with the national team is linked to West Germany's first World Cup win in 1954Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Why is the deal causing such a stir?

The success story of the national team in post-war Germany is closely linked to Adidas, making it an emotional issue for many people in a country that loves football. When the national team upset the "Magic Magyars" in the final of the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, Adidas founder Adi Dassler was the team's kit man. The new football boots with screw-in studs Adidas had developed were a key part of the "Miracle of Bern" – they gave the West German players better footing on the rain-soaked pitch than the highly favored Hungarians.

Germany also wore the shoes and kit bearing the three stripes, the Adidas trademark, for the country's three subsequent World Cup triumphs in 1974, 1990 and 2014.

In 2006 and 2007, Nike tried to tempt the DFB away from Adidas with very lucrative offers – but without success. It was simply unthinkable at the time. The record German champions Bayern Munich even threatened to stop releasing their players for the national team if the DFB opted for Nike. Adidas holds a good 8% of the club's shares.

This article was originally published in German.