adidas & Manchester United: Keeping Their Eyes on the Prize
Back in late 2014, Synergy cut through the wave of commentary on the record-breaking £750m adidas kit deal with a value-based view on whether the deal would be worth it.

According to adidas CEO, Herbert Hainer, it has.

However, in a recent interview with German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, Hainer appeared to place equal emphasis on United’s style of play, saying “Business with Man United is going very well, we sell more shirts than expected. We are satisfied….even if the current playing style of Man United is not exactly what we want to see.”

And, sure enough, it’s Hainer’s comments on the United playing style which have hit the headlines…with many football fans agreeing with him.

But as adidas CEO, responsible for maximising value for shareholders, aren’t Hainer’s remarks concerning the £ value added to adidas’ bottom line more interesting? Is it not more remarkable that a £750m deal, regarded by many sports marketing experts at the time to be too expensive, is in fact outperforming sales expectations? As I’m sure Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal would insist, sports marketers and newspapers should focus on the value-based facts and figures like:

- “… we sell more shirts than expected” (Herbert Hainer, adidas CEO)

- “Many adidas retail partners have reported a 200% increase in day one sales vs. last year’s kit launch” (Steve Marks, adidas’ Director Of Sports Marketing for Manchester United)

- Sales of the club’s shirts broke the existing Megastore record by almost 50% (Manchester United)

Though Hainer’s single comment on the United playing style hit the headlines, the adidas CEO is clearly keeping his eyes on the prize – profit. Whilst adidas’ Manchester United kit sales are off to a strong start, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Only with time and effective measurement will we know whether adidas have created lasting value for their shareholders over the full 10-year term.