What Nike’s Play in College Football Does for Business

College football fans will see nothing but the Swoosh logo on the field today.

First, top-ranked Alabama will take on Washington in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Game time is set for 3 p.m. ET. Then there’s the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., which will feature a clash between Clemson and Ohio State. It’s slated for 8 p.m. ET.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
CREDIT: AP Images.

All four teams participating in the College Football Playoff are sponsored by Nike, the third time in the playoff’s three-year history that the Beaverton, Ore.-based athletic giant has outfitted all of the participating teams.

With all four teams ready to go, Footwear News spoke with Matt Powell, global sports industry analyst with The NPD Group, on why Nike is so involved in college football and how the teams wearing the Swoosh could affect Nike sales.

Why is it important for Nike to be involved so heavily in college football?
Brands always want to have athletes performing at a high level wearing their products, and when you’ve got the four best football teams in the U.S. playing in a championship all wearing Nike products, it really is a seal of approval, if you will, for the brand. And then there’s the marketing, the TV exposure, that they’re going to have — these games are very highly watched, and the logo will be very prominent.

Washington running back Lavon Coleman
Washington running back Lavon Coleman.
CREDIT: AP Images.

Does Nike’s presence in college football have any impact on its footwear sales?
Not directly, no. I think it’s much more about branding and athletic credibility and authenticity.

How, if at all, does Nike’s presence in college football impact retail?
It’s a branding effort. You see the best four college teams all have chosen to wear Nike, and I think that encourages the consumer to do the same. But it’s not a visceral transaction where people see Nike and immediately go out and buy Nike. It’s much more about long-term brand building.

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.
CREDIT: AP Images.

Does being associated with or a fan of a certain college impact team-branded Nike product sales?
The fans of these teams don’t really get to choose whose logo is on their shirt; they have to wear Nike because Nike sponsors their team. But there is an association with that and the long-term branding effect. But I don’t know if they’re going to sell a lot more T-shirts because of these championships.

Do college-branded products get a boost in sales around the time of the College Football Championship?
Sure, and I think you’re seeing that. They have some very clever slogans where they’re actually trying to leverage some of this. They’ll get some bump, but you’ve already got a committed fan who already has the T-shirt and sweatshirt and hat from their college, and I don’t think they’re going to go out and buy a ton more product. Some of them might, but I don’t think you’re going to see millions in sales here; that’s typically not what happens.

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